Planning is the difference between peak season warehouse success and a stressful holiday inventory swell. Peak season planning is vital for every facility. The right strategy can ensure you are prepared and ready to thrive during those months of higher demand and rapid turnaround.
Peak season warehouse success relies on a proactive planning process. This time can be stressful or exhilarating, depending on how prepared your team and facility are. Luckily, you can take actionable steps to outline a plan for your team and identify the best ways to optimize your warehouse for the holiday rush.
The first step to preparing for peak season warehouse success is beginning planning at the right time of year. July or August are typically the best months for warehouses to begin. Starting early leaves you and your team plenty of time to adjust to changes and hit the ground running.
For example, installing warehouse robots can initially have a bit of a learning curve. However, investing in them well ahead of peak season leaves time to get all the technical speed bumps worked out so you have a streamlined system by the holiday rush.
Successful peak season planning isn’t just upgrading the warehouse and doing inventory audits. It is also important to ensure you and your team are approaching things with the right mindset. Getting in gear is all about building efficiency in the warehouse.
This mindset means approaching changes and planning strategies with efficiency as a top priority. Concentrating on improving your warehouse’s efficiency ensures your peak season strategy sets you up to make the most of the increased holiday traffic. It’s the difference between a facility that gets swamped during peak season and one that thrives.
A big part of optimizing a warehouse for high efficiency is optimizing the picking process. Order picking has seen much innovation in recent years with automation and collaborative robots. Part of the peak season planning process involves examining how your picking strategy is currently operating. Is automation used? How many items are picked per hour? How many products need to be selected multiple times due to errors?
Reducing mistakes while improving pick rate is key to improving overall efficiency. Many warehouses are adopting various order-picking robots to assist their employees, helping them reach their goals.
The picking process doesn’t need to be completely automated, and often can’t be realistically. However, collaborative order-picking robots can help augment employees’ skills to reduce errors and pick more orders per hour. This can result in much higher overall operating efficiency in many warehouses, resulting in greater performance and profits during peak season.
Setting aside time to conduct a thorough inventory audit before the peak season hits is essential. This should include the items you currently have as well as available overflow space. Look back at previous years during this process. Did you run out of room for increased holiday inventory? Did certain products come and go from your warehouse in greater volume than others?
Your inventory audit should show you how many certain items you already have in stock, how many units you are likely to sell and how much space you will need to store them. Planning far enough in advance allows plenty of time to submit orders for any products you think will sell in large quantities.
Every manager has some organizational system for their warehouse, but peak season planning is a good time to critique and improve it. The layout can significantly impact overall efficiency. Even small changes can lead to monumental gains simply by saving employees time and energy during the order picking process.
For example, during your inventory audit, you will likely notice some items that have been especially popular in previous years. Similarly, market trends may indicate that certain products will see a surge in demand in the coming peak season. You can predict that employees will likely need to access these products frequently.
Store popular items like this in a way that minimizes their movement through the warehouse. They could be shelved nearer to the order packing area or the loading docks since you know that you will be accessing those products frequently.
Similarly, your overall layout should be organized so traffic flows efficiently. Minimize backtracking and bottlenecks as much as possible. Moving high-demand inventory to an easy-access area is one way to help prevent backups around those shelves.
Most warehouses hire temporary workers to help out during the peak season. This is a widely acknowledged strategy for keeping things moving despite increased traffic. You don’t necessarily need to hire these seasonal workers sooner, but preparing for their arrival well in advance is a good idea.
Seasonal workers operate on a condensed timeline, so an efficient onboarding process is key to success for everyone. They are unlikely to want to sit through long, drawn-out training for a temporary job, and inefficient onboarding delays their start date. It’s in everyone’s best interest to create a rapid procedure.
Onboarding should adequately prepare seasonal employees for their jobs in the minimum possible time. Concentrate on only the most vital and relevant information, such as safety guidelines or scheduling directions. This efficient process should be ironed out and ready to go by the time you need to hire people, so it may be a good idea to test it with some existing workers beforehand.
Every warehouse manager knows that a sound inventory management strategy is vital for success. The peak season planning process is a great time to sit down and fine-tune your procedures. This is especially important if you are planning to implement new technology.
For example, software programs can boost inventory accuracy by 70% or more, but they require time to set up and streamline to your needs. Upgrades like this can be a game-changer during peak season. The right inventory management technologies ensure your levels are monitored as efficiently as possible. Plus, software helps increase product visibility, allowing you to make more informed restocking decisions.
Closely analyze your current inventory management system ahead of peak season every year. Find ways to improve and work with your team to pinpoint the best possible solutions to optimize your process.
Peak season planning can seem like a daunting task at first. However, approaching it with a few core priorities can give you a clear road map leading to the holiday rush. These tips can help your team achieve peak season warehouse success by concentrating on efficiency and optimization throughout the facility.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She regularly covers trends in the industrial sector.