In the material handling and distribution center warehouse world, we all deal with the ebb and flow of busy and slow seasons. If you’re like most of us, you are currently gearing up to tackle the busiest season of the year – the December holidays. Holiday shopping was primarily done in person before the pandemic: people still went out shopping to the mall or their favorite retailer. E-commerce was certainly a growing sector – and we all knew it was going to continue its growth – but only a few of us, if any, were ready for the leap that e-commerce took suddenly because of the pandemic.
Now there’s no looking back. Although people are starting to resume their normal lives, a decrease in e-commerce is not predicted. It’s actually the opposite. E-commerce will continue to grow and it’s up to material handling and DC warehouse managers to sink or swim. People are not so interested in fighting crowds to find a present. The variety you can find online is an enormous appeal. No more tromping from store to store to find that unique holiday gift for your brother who has everything. So, if you aren’t in preparations for what is traditionally – and even more so now – our busiest time of the year, then it might be a sink, instead of a swim, for you.
The question we all face is how can we make our operations more efficient and productive so that this busy time is smooth sailing. Last time, we talked about predicting peak warehouse times and we touched on some ways to find the maximum operating potential, or MaxOPs, of your warehouse. Let’s briefly review what we know is coming and how to work with it for excellent results. Here are the challenges we face and some suggestions.
Warehouse Worker Availability During Peak Seasons
Last time, we talked about introducing automation and robotics into your warehouse ops to take some of the sting out of a shortage of good workers. Obviously, nothing really takes the place of a warm (thinking) body in a key place in your operations. But that’s the gist of it: the warm bodies you do have can be running your more complex and key warehouse operations while your automation takes care of the mundane, repetitive tasks that make up the backbone of any material handling or DC warehouse: receiving, stocking and picking.
How to Get Smooth Warehouse Operations During Your Busiest Months
In our last post, we discussed what a warehouse management system (WMS) can do to help you, especially during your peak season. In the overall scheme of things, you can dip your toe in the water with a relatively inexpensive WMS and try it out. Nobody wants to call a salesperson with a question and wind up being on the receiving end of high-pressure and constant sales calls. When you’ve got a good equipment dealer in your corner, they should respect your request for some time to think it over. And honestly, without someone like that, it may be impossible for you to at least give a WMS a try.
Did you know a WMS can take care of your inventory? You can delegate that dreaded task to an efficient software system that keeps your numbers up to date in real time. Your WMS will also manage the foundation of your business: receiving, stocking and shipping. Will you still need employees in this part of the business? Absolutely. But they’ll be more engaged in keeping the whole production going, while the WMS works in the background, supplying real-time information that’s priceless.
Investing in New Technology Before Your Warehouse is Slammed with Holidays
Hopefully, if you have decided to move forward – even a little bit – with investing in some of today’s technology, that action is already in full swing. If not, you’ve still got a little time to explore what’s out there and how it can make your life easier. When you are full on into your holiday peak, you can’t be learning how to use innovative methods for streamlining your warehouse operations. And you don’t want your workers out there on the floor trying to figure it out either.
Suffice it to say that the material handling and DC warehouse industry introduces new ways to, first and foremost, improve safety, but to help us make the best use of our warehouse space without sacrificing efficiency and productivity all the time.
Remember, even a small investment in something like RFID tags and trackers can improve warehouse safety dramatically, while providing a solid ROI. Taking the steps now, when you aren’t quite as busy, makes sense.
Keeping Your Customers Happy Throughout the Year
Grumpy customers can turn your day from a good one to a bad one in a split second. And they aren’t in your face just during your peak season – this is an all-year experience. However, when our warehouse and its people are stressed out dealing with a peak busy season, irate customers just seem even more of a burden.
Of course, we cannot have a business without our customers. So, even though they can sometimes be a pain, our number one goal has to be to keep them happy and satisfied.
In our world, our customers aren’t just the end-of-the-line lady in her house receiving her package (although she is definitely one of them). Our customers include the retail and wholesale stores we receive, stock and ship for, as well as the companies that move that stock to our warehouse – and out again. We are sometimes even our own customer if we move our own products through our warehouse.
It would be great if we could have beaming employees waiting on the dock when the truck arrives, happily unload the contents (everything is there and undamaged), more smiling employees to stock the product in its proper place with no mistakes, shiny new equipment that never breaks down operated by professionals who never pick the wrong package and treat the machinery like gold… I think you can see where this pipe dream is going.
It’s probably not as pessimistic as Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong, will), but it’s still best to be prepared and take the steps necessary to alleviate daily challenges. We stand by what we said in our last post about how to keep your customers happy:
- Have clear expectations and communications
- Be as prompt as you can possibly be and when you can’t, make a call. Being proactive and calling your customer will go a long way to the alternative – them feeling like they have to track you down.
- Do what you say you will. If you can’t – see above.
- Be as accommodating as you possibly can.
How to Run a Smooth Operation During Peak Times
Remember the old scout saying – always be prepared? Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and explore new ways of doing things in order to be as prepared as possible. In the material handling and DC warehouse industry, you know you are coming up on your busy time. Are you prepared to get the maximum efficiency and productivity out of your warehouse ops?
You’ve got an interested and invested partner in 54 Intralogistics. We’ve got teams of professional and experienced warehouse optimizers throughout the U.S. These men and women stand on the long reputation in the industry of Darr Equipment – a trusted source for many years.
We understand your pain points. Discover your MaxOp (maximum operating potential) with us. Contact us today for a free quote.