Peak season can lead to disastrous situations when unprepared. To optimize and maximize on the revenue potential of a peak season and be able to meet customer expectations, there are multiple factors to look at – from consumer demands, channel alignment to supply chain execution preparedness and beyond. It may all sound impossible to manage in the beginning but with certain steps ahead of time, a business can prepare for demand spikes.
Let’s explore the five steps to take to ensure success during peak season.
Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance
Prior preparation and proper planning for busy periods can help ease problems and improve performances. Spikes in demand can come at any time of the year and differ significantly based on a business and its market. Overall, holistic planning is needed to handle peaks no matter what time of the year they occur.
Having the year planned out in advance helps business minimize surprises. Volume data from the past provides valuable insight regarding when peaks are to be expected and how well warehouses and supply chains are equipped to manage them. When peak times have been pinpointed, managers should create a checklist of key activities ahead of peak periods and share a timeline with vested parties. Having a clear project plan, with objectives and specific dates included is as important as reaching out to key business partners and vendors to review plans and secure their support.
The preparation process also includes regular testing of back-end functionalities. Volume performance tests help point out potential problem areas well in advance and give ground to organizations to fix any issues before demand spikes. Testing should take place early and should also ensure that the organization is prepared for volume handling and will hit the ground running as soon as the orders begin piling in.
Train Your Temps
Hiring temporary workers to help you during peak season is common practice. A large organization could potentially have thousands of temporary workers to assist with high order volumes and this has the ability to present challenges.
Putting a process in place to administer worker profiles ensuring that all new workers have access to the systems and tools they need, can avoid a lot of problems. Reviewing security procedures and regulations also becomes one of the first important steps. This can be able to help the new temp staff get through the onboarding process quickly and enable a faster turnaround.
Once this step is achieved, the organization can focus on training. A training program is crucial and utilizing tools that workers are familiar with such as iPads and smartphones, is a great way to help workers get up to speed faster. Employees will become more adept at using technology they are familiar with from personal use.
Using visual cues and pictures of objects too will also enable temporary employees to pick fast and more accurately based on what they see – a process that will speed up operations and reduce order errors. It’s a beneficial situation for employees, who will be set up for success, and for the employer that will have created more productive workers. The impact of such intuitive tools is not only limited to temporary workers, but also helps improve productivity across the board and are a key component in a business’ warehouse management arsenal.
Get Operations Right
The next step to take is holding a discovery or design session to determine if altering operational strategies would be beneficial for peak seasons or not. Order allocations as well as picking strategies may need to be temporarily adjusted to deal with large volumes. Replenishment priorities may need to change in conjunction with picking priorities. Whatever adjustments need to be made, there needs to be time put into doing an operations audit to determine what needs to tweaked in order to address high order volumes.
Smooth operations in a warehouse are important, especially during peak season. If the warehouses fail to handle increased demand, delivery dates may be missed and this may damage relationship with customers.
After all the above steps have been taken, then comes time to execute all the planning and prep work. Make certain to put in place key metrics that can be used to measure productivity and goals. As the busy season begins, having the ability to monitor operations in real time is important to ensure that projected goals are met or that necessary adjustments are made. Going through peak times without having proper visibility into order volumes, inventory levels, order fill rates, on-time deliveries and late shipments does not enable the organization to proactively deal with concerns.
Peak season can be seen as a mini organizational change and must be treated as such. Operations are different, there is new staff hired, and everyone focuses on meeting peak demand and achieving goals. Place importance in frequent team meetings even during the busiest time. Make sure each team member is following the set procedure. Communicate goals across departments and teams and give employees visibility into both successes and areas for improvement.
A labour management system that can evaluate how employees are performing against key performance objectives, predict and plan labour, calculate incentive-based pay and facilitate supervisor interaction via real-time data on a mobile device is extremely important. It is also very crucial during peak periods when labour efficiency becomes critical.
Review Lessons Learned
After the peak season, evaluate and conduct cross-departmental reviews as well as reviews with key system stakeholders and vendors. The questions to ask are – How did the warehouse, stores, transportation network and supply chain systems manage volume increase? Did everything go according to plan? What lessons were learned? Were there any major problems that need to be resolved for the future? Identify and develop a plan to take action and set dates for resolution. It is important to ask what worked and what didn’t at the end of the season so that all areas of the business know how their department performed and what can be improved.
Once the review is done, move back to pre-peak settings both systematically and operationally. Develop a plan for next season. It is never too early to begin; especially with the most recent peak is fresh top of mind.
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Source: Supply and Demand Chain Executive