Supply Chain Enabled

Final preparations for peak-season demand

Published: October 18, 2022
Author: Lorcan Sheehan

For many companies, particularly those with high eCommerce volumes, we are in the final countdown to peak season.   With a disproportionate level of revenue dependent on the coming weeks, it is important to ensure that operations can scale to the task.  To give fulfilment operations the best chance to succeed, there are a few tips that can help.

Plan and communicate: Align on promotions and mailings and set expectations for a range of expected volumes.   Monitor staffing levels required for the peak and check in daily on actual progress versus plan.   Include logistics and other partners in the planning process, agreeing on collection times and anticipated volumes.  Be prepared to manage customer expectations and shift logistics profiles if needed at the peak.

Daily operations drumbeat:  Refine and practise the daily operations review process – this may already be part of your governance process

  • Brief and targeted – defined people, place, and purpose – 30 minutes in the morning followed by 15 minutes of follow-up on actions later in the day
  • Defined reports – everyone familiar with what they are seeing
  • Defined roles – certainty about who leads and who executes each action
  • Empowered to take actions – fast decisions are important

Get housekeeping in order: Although it is likely that warehouses will be near their maximum capacity, take the opportunity to get ahead in non-fulfilment areas, in stock organisation, and to improve housekeeping standards.  Keep receiving, marshalling, and shipping lanes clear as these will be needed to move the volumes in the coming months. 

Prepare and build ahead:  Consider the opportunity to pre-pack single orders of the highest volume SKUs ahead of the peak, requiring just a shipper label to process when the peak occurs.  Pre-position high-running SKUs close to shipping areas and develop plans to replenish from bulk locations.  Develop a plan for bulky items such as packaging.

Train, train, train:   Many organisations are currently building up staff numbers in preparation for the peak.  Technology can only bring so much to the process.  New team members will need to understand the organisation, the products and standards, as well as the basics of how to navigate the warehouse.   Use visual cues to support training and packaging standards and give some consideration to additional wayfinding signage – particularly in larger warehouses. 

Keep product flowing:  Pay particular attention to product flows – determine and mark out how product is staged for packing, how it is presented to pack stations, and how it is moved out for collection.    Consider how trash will be disposed of and allocate resources to maintain housekeeping even at peak volumes. A well designed flow will allow immediate visual view of bottlenecks to facilitate reallocation of resources.

Segment order flows: Develop and refine plans for how orders will be dropped to maximise efficiency.   Single line orders can generally be processed faster than multi-line orders, and orders requiring gift wrap or personalisation may be diverted into a separate flow.  Configure the size of order waves and refine pick routes.

Working within the confines of the available technology, levels of automation and warehouse footprint at this time of the season, it is about preparing the organisation to deliver.  Operational leadership needs to be visible in supporting the process but also be given the space and authority to make the decisions needed during peak demand.  We wish you all a productive and successful holiday season.


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