The holiday season is in full swing. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone. Shoppers started browsing and buying earlier this year in light of supply chain delays and complexities, but that doesn’t mean the peak season has concluded or that you shouldn’t continue preparing. Peak season stretches beyond the holiday season.
Consumer demand remains strong when it comes to retail ecommerce. For warehouse and distribution center operations that means putting processes to the test. No matter how much automation is currently installed, handling seasonal peaks requires a smooth process that allows for operations to thrive – accurate orders, reliable fulfillment, scalable operations, safe work environments – during this hectic, bustling time.
As we gear up for 2022, experts at Adobe predict we will be facing the first ever trillion dollar year in ecommerce sales and with BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) continuing to trend upward, it’s never too soon to prepare for an uptick in sales year-round.
4 Key Tips to Help Peak Season Warehouse Operations
The National Retail Federation reports, “Consumers are spending just as much this year on gifts and other items to celebrate the spirit of the holidays.” While there is some return to brick-and-mortar store shopping, online sales are growing. Holiday sales are expected to reach between $843.4 billion and $859 billion in November and December, that’s an 8.5 and 10.5 percentage growth from last year. That does not include automobile, gas station or restaurant data.
With peak season well underway, there are still crucial last-minute preparations that you can do to help ensure that your peak season operations are up to expectations and can navigate downtime threats. After all, downtime means delays, unfulfilled orders and unhappy customers.
1. Equipment Maintenance Check – Continue to keep up with your maintenance plan for any automation and machine equipment. During any possible downtime, double-check the routine, processes and, especially, equipment that may be operating more frequently due to the increased consumer demand.
2. Access to Sufficient Parts – In the case that equipment requires a spare part, it’s a great idea to have spare parts ready to go and in hand. This will reduce any downtime and have you back up and running as soon as possible. The last thing you want is to face a long lead time or delay in shipping. Remember to also store your parts in an organized manner. This will help the maintenance team more quickly resolve problems, as well as assess restocking needs.
3. Service Provider Availability – Should any issues arise, it’s important to have your service provider’s contact information handy. Confirm availability, whether it’s remote or in-person access. With the COVID-19 pandemic still among us, it’s key to plan ahead in order to adjust as needed. That starts with understanding your service provider’s availability and plans.
4. Open Lines of Communication – If you’re uncertain about equipment performance at higher rates or if you recently made adjustments that you want to confirm, connect with your system integrator. They’ll be happy to discuss possible mitigation or resolutions.
Continuous Improvement for Efficient Automation Warehouse Operations
Seasonal peaks require efficiency and flexibility to thrive but, more importantly, it’s key to continue your maintenance, standard practices and know who to call when in need of help. Whether you have a goods to person system, automated storage and retrieval system, or conveyor and sortation, any automation you may have or may be considering should work to simplify peak season changes.
After all, peak season is not just Black Friday or Cyber Monday anymore. In fact, the National Retail Federation notes that the top consumer spending events occur several times throughout the year. Recent data shows the top five as: Back to College, winter holidays, Back to School, Mother’s Day and Easter.
BOPIS is still growing at a rapid pace, along with buy now, pay later options and usage. Consumers will still be demanding in-stock, low priced, hassle-free experiences at a higher rate than ever before. Verticals and industries like home and garden or grocery, previously purchased in-person, have seen digital sales growth throughout 2020 and 2021. Many retailers are still implementing changes to meet demand, and the trillion-dollar demand of 2022, as reported by Adobe, is sure to make an impact.
As you navigate the current peak season, take the opportunity to track metrics like throughput, downtime, SKU parity, picking rates, replenishment rates and returns. In addition to day-to-day metrics, these metrics are helpful to find automation that is the right fit for your operations. Meaning that it should scale to your needs but provide a streamlined process that works for both scenarios.