With the holiday shopping season officially underway, the spotlight is turning to multichannel fulfillment. Multichannel Merchant senior writer Jim Tierney caught up with Pete Foster, operations manager for bedding merchant Cuddledown, for a quick chat on some of his department’s challenges.
Q: From an operations and fulfillment standpoint, what are the biggest challenges at Cuddledown?
A: Last year our inventory levels were decreased and SKU growth was relatively stagnant due to the economic conditions. This year it was determined there would be a variety of new initiatives to drive growth and product diversification.
So the SKU growth and the inventory levels to support it have been the biggest challenges this year. There has been a large strain put on our picking area due to the strong increase in SKUs, as well as the general warehouse space to process and hold the inventory.
Q: How do you streamline operations to effectively meet those challenges?
A: We have been working with our vendors to barcode for us, and this has significantly increased our throughput from receipt to inventory.
We are in a state of constant improvement, and have made a variety of changes both to systems and processes to enable us to be more productive. As an example, with the assistance of our IT department, we just made a change to the order entry process that eliminated about eight hours of manual paper shuffling out of each of our new quarterly selling events.
Q: Now that the holiday season is upon us, how has Cuddledown prepared operations for the increased demand?
A: The first priority is setting up our primary picking area to create the best productivity we can for the holiday season. This is becoming more and more difficult as SKUs and promotions increase.
We will be reinforcing our cross-training for all of our regular employees, which allows us to move labor to where it is needed quickly.
Q: Do you use seasonal staffing during the holiday period and, if so, how much does your workforce increase?
A: We added a couple of seasonal employees to help us through the busy season. This is pretty much the extent of hiring, but we have developed a relationship with a temporary employee agency to help us with sharp spikes. The temporary workers will be cross-trained in several areas.