The holiday season offers plenty of opportunities for companies to increase their annual sales. However, this time is also the most stressful in the warehouse due to space and management challenges. To ensure that warehouses operate efficiently during the peak season, they need to adopt a plan to meet demand.
The key to ensuring that the warehouse meets demand during peak season is to adopt a plan of action early. Having a plan ensures that they improve their processes, leading to an increase in profitability. You can implement some strategies that will ensure that you prepare your warehouse for peak season, and these strategies include the following.
1. Assess warehouse layout
To understand how you will prepare your warehouse for peak season, you first need to understand your starting point- the warehouse. You should take the time to examine your current warehouse layout, and there are certain aspects you should look at when doing so. Firstly, review the areas in the warehouse and assess if the current design of the warehouse is working for you and if it would still work if there were an increase in inventory.
You should also decide whether your current inventory placement can manage the stock you will handle during peak season. To determine this, you need to look at where your stock is placed and where it will be placed once there is greater demand. Your inventory placement should be easily accessible, even when it comes to the most in-demand items, making it easier for pickers.
Ensure that you have sufficient space in the warehouse for walk-throughs. If there isn’t, you should create a clear pathway that creates easy flow and movement. Look for ways to improve warehouse layout flow as this will minimise the distance workers will have to travel when picking and packing items.
2. Anticipate upcoming inventory levels
Once you have completed the warehouse layout assessment and identified the changes you want to make, the next step towards preparing the warehouse is anticipating the inventory you will need to accommodate. To know how much space you should free up, you will need to know how much stock you will need daily. To gain information on the inventory you will need available, you should consult with other departments, such as the marketing and sales team, and look at their projections. The projections will be based on the previous years’ trends and your general performance throughout the year. Working with other departments will assist you in gaining a better understanding of the inventory level you should start preparing for.
3. Improve storage capacity
Once you have looked at projections and you have a better understanding of how much inventory you should be preparing for, you will need to make space to accommodate the increased inventory levels. You should consider how much space you might require to accommodate the entire process, from receiving, storing, picking, packing, and shipping out products. It is common for warehouses to run out of storage during peak seasons. However, this is more an issue about how space is utilised as most warehouse space is underutilised. You can improve storage capacity by using containers, which is helpful for warehouses that usually receive items that are not packaged as storing them in containers creates uniform storage. You can also consolidate pallets to free up space or choose to reduce aisle widths.
4. Service and repair equipment
The worst thing that occurs during peak season is stopping due to faulty equipment. Therefore, to reduce the chances of work stoppages occurring, you must have material handling preventative equipment maintenance well before the beginning of the peak season. Ideally, you should schedule preventative maintenance for material handling equipment at least one to two months before your inventory for the peak season arrives. You should conduct preventative maintenance regularly during different times of the year to prevent common issues, such as wear and tear. Additionally, performing preventative maintenance also ensures that your equipment will be safer to operate during peak season, keeping workers safe.
5. Use the correct equipment
The safety of the warehouse is essential as it ensures that operations run smoother while also keeping workers safe and productive. With an influx of inventory in the warehouse, you must invest in some equipment that will support the warehouse’s workload. Some of the equipment you can invest in includes:
- Workstation equipment: workstation equipment such as lift tables and loaders reduce repetitive motion injuries while increasing productivity due to better ergonomic solutions.
- Loading and storage equipment: Equipment such as pallet dispensers, stackable plastic pallets, and stretch wrappers assist you in shipping out products faster and safer while also increasing efficiency in the warehouse.
- Pallet management equipment: Pallet inverters and exchangers assist with tilting, moving and turning pallets which saves time usually spent moving one product from one pallet to place it on the other manually.
When preparing your warehouse for peak, it would be advised that you also consider investing in a warehouse management system (WMS). WMS assists in inventory management and is beneficial for labour management and increasing productivity. The system helps manage receiving, storage, picking and packing, and shipping out products. It also offers insights relating to worker productivity which can help tighten processes to improve efficiency. Relying on the system will also be beneficial as it helps eliminate picking and shipping errors, increasing customer satisfaction.
The key to ensuring that you can handle demand during peak season is taking time to prepare before. By taking the time to follow the tips offered above, you will perform better when demand increases.