7 Tips to Prepare Your Distribution Center for its Peak

Aug 07, 2012 3:09 AM  By

With less than 16 weeks until Black Friday, many in the distribution world are hitting the home stretch in preparation for peak season. Whether you service wholesale, retail or ecommerce (or any combination), time is running out to prepare for another peak season.

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Whether your peak to average ratio is 2-1 or 20-1, time is getting tight to ensure that your facility is ready for peak. Making that list and checking it twice can be just the thing to ensure another successful peak season.

Hopefully, your peak season planning started just after the last package was shipped last peak, but the following tips can help ensure that all of that planning does not go to waste.

Revisit projections
Projections have a way of migrating throughout the year, and now is a good time to ensure that your planning numbers still match the businesses projections.

Finalize operational changes
All operational changes should be in the final stages of implementation to allow for stabilization prior to peak. Additionally, training and SOP documentation should be updated based on those changes. Finally, any required maintenance to your work measurement techniques should be wrapping up soon.

Finalize and test hiring and training plans
By now, your human resources department should already have a hiring plan in place. Now is a good time to review that hiring and training plan, and if needed, test it during the dry runs.

Finalize systems changes
As with operational changes, now is the time to finalize those systems changes to ensure that there is enough time for stabilization.

Develop contingency plans
Most of us have lived through peaks where the unexpected happened. Once you are solid on all peak planning, it is a good time to nail down the appropriate levels of contingency plans.

Clean house
Clean up those shadow boards, PM that conveyor, and take care of all the other items that may be neglected during peak. If you don’t have a spotless warehouse going into peak, you will have a total mess coming out of it!

Practice, practice, practice
Peak season stress testing can mean many things to many people. Some test their systems, some test their hiring and training and some test a combination of these things. Test everything. Simulating peak volumes for anywhere from four hours to two days can help ensure that HR can hire and train the right staff, and the systems and MHE (Material Handling Exchange) can handle the extra volume.

This can be done by planning around existing promotions or shutting down for a limited time to build the volume.

Steve Osburn is a supply chain strategist for management consultancy Kurt Salmon.