Coping with the seasonal crunch

By now, many of you are beginning to get the first waves of holiday orders. Are you as well prepared as you think you are? It’s not too late to make a list and check it twice. Here are a few last-minute tips for holiday preparation and planning from Sam Flanders, president of Durham, NH-based Warehouse Management Consultants.

Learn from the past

The best way to prepare for seasonal challenges is to look at history. If you are an established operation, look to the prior year for guidance. Speak to staff in each area to find out what problems occurred and what types of bottlenecks slowed down processing. If you have stats on orders processed, find out when your busiest days and weeks were and how you performed during those times. If you don’t have this information, be sure to collect it this year. If you are a new operation, try to use a benchmark from a similar business to estimate what your seasonal peak will look like.

Leave enough room

During crunch periods, your aisles may be filled with 12 pickers and their carts, and these workers need to be able to work efficiently and pass each other easily. If the space is too tight, pickers will end up waiting for co-workers to get out of the way, which will result in lost productivity. The same goes for your staging areas, which should be able to handle gear and materials on your busiest days.

Hire for peak periods

If you know you’ll need more workers for the busy season, don’t delay hiring. Check with local college placement offices or job boards to post seasonal positions. You also can hire part-timers with an agreement that they will ramp up their hours to a higher level during your peak.

Plan extra stations and equipment

Even if you have enough workers, you still need enough equipment and space to get the job done. In the packing area, for example, do you have enough manifest stations to get your peak load processed on your busiest days? If not, plan temporary space where you can set up stations and equipment. Similarly, make sure you have enough RF terminals, carts, voice units, or other technology you are using.

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