Is your warehouse prepared for the influx of inventory, shipments, and returns that the holiday season brings? The average retailer increases their inventory by three or fourfold for the holidays. More inventory means more sales and revenue, but it also means more stress on the logistics and fulfillment process.
So how do you make sure your warehouse is stocked and loaded, ready to take on the holiday chaos with grace and profits?
One of the biggest mistakes you can make for the holiday season is not having enough hands on deck. You likely can’t increase your current staff’s hours drastically, since the cost of overtime—especially during the holidays—can be overwhelming. It’s often more cost effective to hire a wide number of employees and train them for the season to save on the cost of overtime.
A larger workforce will also put less strain on your current employees, so they can enjoy their holiday season as well. Happy, cared-for employees are more productive and motivated.
So it’s time to start hiring seasonal or temporary employees who can pick up the slack for the extra workload of the season. This includes pickers, packers, labelers, and even warehouse managers. The more people you have in your warehouse, the faster you can get inventory processed and shipped for your customers. This, in turn, enhances your customer service and fulfillment rates for Q4.
Having more staff onboard isn’t enough, though. You need to have appropriate scheduling processes to ensure that you’re effectively staffed at all times. You could have 3x the number of employees you usually do, but they can be 3x less effective if they aren’t scheduled properly.
This means you might want to invest in schedule management software, where employees can view, swap, and adjust shifts. This takes the responsibility off of managers, so they can focus on improving the logistics process and enriching customer service. It also gives employees the opportunity to control their schedule, which reduces absenteeism while encouraging greater attention and productivity on the clock.
You’ll also want to provide holiday training to both new and experienced workers. Providing specifics on how to handle the hectic holiday season will prepare your employees to be more efficient and effective.
This can include skill training like how to package a holiday box or how to calculate the cost based on dimensional pricing. You could also offer additional training like how to handle holiday stress and how to create relationships in the workplace. The holidays are a stressful time for everyone both in and out of work, so offering resources to improve their work-life balance can be highly productive. They’ll be more engaged and motivated, which reflects positively on their performance and productivity—especially during the holiday season, where every moment counts.
Scheduling management and online training are just the beginning of the tech you can implement for your warehouse.
Incorporating a warehouse management system can help streamline all of your operations process for a smooth, efficient warehouse machine. Warehouse management systems can also update your inventory in real time to ensure that you always have updated stock available for consumer demands. You don’t want to sell a product that you don’t have in stock, and you also don’t want to be stuck with ghost inventory that was never listed.
You may also want to look into cloud-based blockchain technology. This ensures that the entire supply chain is functioning at peak capacity from production to warehouse to consumer.
Note: If you don’t already have these technologies implemented, the holidays are not the time to make the switch. It’s already a hectic time of year, so change management could be too challenging. Wait until after the returns period to implement new technology that can help you in the coming year.
Your warehouse is likely housing more inventory than usual. This means you’ll probably have to move some things around to get everything to fit and your inventory management will have to change. But you don’t want to cram everything in there and reduce performance as a consequence. If need be, add supplemental storage containers or shelves to make more room for the influx of stock.
You should also take some time to update the floor plan and focus on strategy. For example, you could put more popular items towards the front of the warehouse. Or you could organize everything by department or size. The best logistics managers create a floor plan strategy that becomes the backbone for their entire operations.
You’ll want to include signage so it’s easy to navigate, and you should also consider a brief training to alert employees where everything is. Come up with a drawn-out map as well to hand out and post around the warehouse to further speed up the process if searching for a specific product.
Make any repairs or replacements to tools as needed to avoid catastrophe right in the middle of the season. That shelf that’s been balancing on three legs is bound to break the week before Christmas. That slow pallet carrier is going to stop moving right in the middle of the floor. Make the repairs now to avoid disaster later.
You may also want to train your staff to notice faulty machinery or storage units early on. This can help prevent disaster and save replacement costs by attacking problems while they’re still small.
Maintenance can also keep you more compliant, which is especially important during holiday crackdowns.
How efficient is your warehouse at processing returns? Once January 1 hits, returns start flooding in almost as fast as the stock went flying out of warehouses in December.
Preparing for the returns process not only makes your operations department more efficient, but it also improves your customer service. Customers don’t want to wait around for their returns and refunds to be processed. The faster you can get returns shipped back and re-settled in your warehouse, the faster you can get the customer their money back. This speed and efficiency show your customer that you care about their experience. If you make the return process smooth, they’re more likely to purchase from you another time.
This means you should create a systematized return process. Then, you’ll want all employees trained in how to process returns. You should also have a few employees whose sole purpose is to do returns. The more they do returns, the more efficient they will become at processing and replacing inventory in the warehouse. This practice-based efficiency can improve your return process and customer service tenfold.
Prep your warehouse for the holiday season by bringing more hands on board, training your staff, optimizing technology, improving your warehouse layout, performing maintenance and service, and streamlining returns. With just these few changes, you’ll see your holiday performance rates skyrocket.
What logistics challenges are you facing with the increased holiday demand? Contact us to find out how we can help make this holiday season your smoothest and most profitable yet.