Peak Season Preparations

The holiday season is nearly here—is your operation ready? It’s not too late, but it’s getting down to the wire.

One thing you can do now that will help you in the future is document your processes and procedures. One of my first bosses required that I write a brief summary of activity and issues every week.

Back then, I thought it was an annoying waste of time. I gladly ate those words when the next season rolled around, however: Those notes provided a perfect reminder of where we ran in to trouble, and what we could do to prevent or mitigate them.

The notes also reminded us of what we did right and enabled us to leverage those concepts the following year. They provided a specific baseline of transaction volumes in each area and number of hours used, and what we should have had.

Having that backup took a lot of guesswork out of planning the next season. The second season was a big improvement, thanks in large part to those weekly notes.

Get enough gear
If you are using RF scanners for replenishment, make sure you rent or purchase enough for additional staff. That’s a lousy excuse to fall behind, but we see it all the time. Same with stock pickers or lift equipment.

Think outside the gift box
Gift wrapping is a nice service to customers, but it can cause holiday bottlenecks in the operations. Some clients have been successful in preventing creative solutions to keeping up with gift wrapping, such as having church groups come in every afternoon to do some wrapping in exchange for a donation.

Procure part-time workers
On the subject of staffing, it’s hard to overemphasize the importance of part-time staff. Many companies think they’re hard to find, but believe me, they are out there.

Part-time staff gives you much more flexibility to more specifically match your resources to workload, and to expand hours when you need them. An added benefit is the lower costs for part-time staff as a result of fewer hours worked.

Don’t forget to have some fun.
One client keeps its staff refreshed during peak period by providing breakfasts, lunches or snacks a few times a week. Even managers pitch in by cooking up pancakes and other treats. Some bring in roving minstrels or carolers, or take time out for a charity drive or holiday parties.

This season is the reason we are all here, and the best opportunity to lower your per-unit costs as a result of the improved productivity that comes with high volume.

Make the best plans you can to avoid backlogs and undue pressure –but don’t pamper yourself, either. The most powerful tool in your arsenal is a dedicated staff that’s willing to put in the hard work and long hours to make it successful, in terms of both service and productivity.

For more on gearing up for the big season, look for my article in the September issue of Multichannel Merchant.

Bill Kuipers ( is a partner in Spaide, Kuipers & Co., a provider of operations management and information technology solutions for multichannel commerce.

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