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The holidays are usually a time for joy and relaxation, but when you run a warehouse, they are both exhilarating and exhausting. To prepare for the sudden increase in order volume and the urgency of shipping orders on time, There are things you can do now to prepare your warehouse for the influx of order traffic.
2021 is set to be a record year for online orders during the Holidays. The Washington Post even noted that “the pandemic is haunting the global supply chain and, by extension, shoppers.” To set yourself and your business up for success for what is likely a non-predictable season, consider some of these actionable steps ahead of the rush.
Planning for the Holiday rush means looking into all the areas of your warehouse that might need extra support or extra supplies before the increase in volume surprises your team. Here’s some advice from warehousing experts for how to get ready:
Weeks before the major rush it is very important to schedule equipment and systems checks leading into the busiest times. Nothing is worse than having a forklift, printer, or walkie-talkie go down in the middle of the busiest week of the year. If you plan at least three weeks ahead to check all systems, you will have enough time to have maintenance completed on any printers, forklifts or hard-to-schedule maintenance equipment.
Printers can cause the biggest backup in the warehouse, make sure that the scheduled maintenance is done, and the ink and paper are ready.
If there are multiple partial pallets taking up space in the warehouse, (especially in prime locations) combining partial skids will free up space and create more flexibility. High moving SKUs may have a pallet for replenishment that can now be moved to a more productive and efficient location that may have previously been occupied by a partial pallet.
This also serves to conserve the number of locations that pickers and the WMS need to identify to fulfill orders.
Assuming that every year will be busier than the last is safe practice. So, analyze the staffing you needed last year, and consider that you may need more. Plan to hire seasonal workers if needed. If the demand spikes, look into staffing agencies for temporary workers; these workers are trainable and easy to dismiss if the demand turns out to be less than you were planning for.Pro Tip: Make sure you have comprehensive easy-to-access and easy-to-digest training resources available for any seasonal or new hires that come on during this time.
Reorganizing your items or location addresses can really change the number of steps that your warehouse picker is taking. The goal is to get your pickers to take the least amount of steps possible. There are several ways to achieve that:
Package volume may be much larger than usual. For warehouses that have daily pickups with carriers (UPS/FedEx/etc), it would be wise to contact the account representatives for these carriers and discuss options for handling the increased package volume. Possibly schedule multiple package pickups per day.
Another option is to see if your carriers would be willing to drop off a trailer at your dock and once it is full, you can have the carrier pick up the full trailer and drop another empty one if necessary.
Note: USPS is generally not as responsive to customer queries as UPS or FedEx, so try to communicate with the carrier in advance if you know that you will have increased volume for USPS to work something out.
For special items that require unique permits and certificates (alcohol, hazmat, etc.), plan ahead and make sure that all the necessary paperwork is ready.
Often during busy seasons, warehouses will utilize seasonal workers to meet staffing needs. These employees may not be familiar with the warehouse's processes or workflow. To minimize confusion and help maintain productivity, all responsibilities associated with their role needs to be clearly explained.
Another tip is to schedule out 30 or 60 minutes with the seasonal employees for a Q&A session to ensure everyone is on the same page and has clear directives.
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