Holiday Preparations for the Distribution Center

It’s nearly go-time for holiday order fulfillment, and your operation should be staffed up and ready for action. Before the busiest part of the season kicks in to full swing, however, it’s a good idea to go over key areas to make sure you’re prepared. Here are four things to review in your distribution center.

1) Assess your inventory situation.
Food gifts cataloger Fairytale Brownies conducts a complete physical count of what is already in the warehouse. “We then move items depending on our build schedules for the season, still keeping in mind what are the best moving items and the slowest moving, and storing these items accordingly,” says operations team leader Kim Silva. “Since we prebuild much of our inventory for the holiday peak, we want to have a plan of what is being built and when it’s being built so that inventory is stored based on upcoming usage.”

The team at Fairytale Brownies knows when inventory is scheduled to arrive, “so we plan for these days ahead of time by making sure that we have enough staff on hand to off-load and store what needs to be put away,” says Silva. This way, the company avoids having items sitting on the dock or in the middle of the warehouse aisles.

2) Make room in your warehouse.
Before things get really crazy, take a good, hard look at excess and obsolete inventory and SKU reduction/rationalization to free up additional space, says Tim Little, vice president of operations at gifts cataloger Miles Kimball Co. Just before the fall season, “we spend a great deal of time consolidating partial pallets locations as well.”

This is also a good time to rekindle relationships with outside public warehousing companies, Little adds, “just in case we exceed our maximum storage capacity.”

Stony Creek Brands, which includes the Cooking Enthusiast and Uno Alla Volta titles, cleans out all shelving and moves items not being carried anymore to a closed-out section to enable the current/new products to be in prime locations for picking. “This is an ongoing process through the year, but it’s focused on at holiday time to enable space for the increased amount of products needed to satisfy our demand,” says chief operating officer Robin Bavin.

3) Check out your warehouse equipment.
If you don’t have an ongoing materials handling equipment preventive maintenance program established, Little says, now would be a good time to “make sure all of your equipment is working at its optimal levels.” What’s more, make sure you have ample battery life to get you through your heavy receiving days, he says.

At Stony Creek Brands, all equipment that is dormant for the rest of the year must be verified and updated, says Bavin. The company’s IT folks check the shipping station computer software and hardware for any issues in processing, such as possible cable problems, communications issues with attached printers, scales and scanners.

The merchant also performs tests of shipments, including labeling and speed of system. This is done for all additional stations that are used just during the holiday, Bavin says. Stony Creek’s void-filling airbag machines receive maintenance from an outside company to ensure they will work correctly, she adds since some of these machines are not used routinely.

4) Stock up on supplies.
Do you have everything you need to ship out holiday orders? To project accurately, Stony Creek Brands estimates its packaging requirements and boxes by current volume this year and also last holiday amounts. “Vendors are provided with the estimates, along with delivery dates that we would expect to need the additional packaging,” Bavin says.

The cataloger also ensures it has preparation stations set up with all necessary items, such as barcode labels/printers, bubble wrap, bags, boxes and so on.

What’s more, Stony Creek Brands includes images of all new items at the stations. This helps with quality control in terms of color, size and overall product matching for the items coming in to the DC, Bavin says.

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