the cold weather holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are filled with uncertainty. One thing that is certain, consumers will be spending significantly less time in crowded retail shops, and more money online shopping. Already this year online orders have seen over a 200% increase 1.
Marketing Technology News cited a recent study surveying consumers sentiment regarding the 2020 holiday season.
Managing significant spikes in online orders will require a strong omnichannel fulfillment strategy. This means that ramping up for peak season will be even more important to a successful and profitable 4th quarter. If your DC has seen a large percentage of orders moving to e-com shipments and you have not prepared for the increase in this year’s cyber season, you could disappoint customers with delayed shipments. Missing deliveries due to the inability to process order surges can lead to losing a customer forever.
One of the most challenging elements for an Omnichannel or a B2B distribution operation is the growth in shipping a larger percentage of parcel orders. To accommodate parcel orders, focus on lean, low touch, efficient processes to manage pick, pack and ship e-com orders. Take steps to prepare your distribution centers for today’s higher volume parcel shipment demands and the upcoming cyber holiday spike. This year, consider the spike in demand for direct to consumer parcels, and plan to shift more resources towards the e-com fulfillment aspect of your DC.
You don’t have to redesign the entire DC for ecommerce and B2B parcel shipments, but there are steps to take to make certain that travel and order picking in your warehouse is optimized. An effective slotting process will result in getting your highest movers stored in the most optimal locations in your facility with easy accessibility – placement in carton flow, shelving or pallet positions based on the SKU movement velocity.
Consider how you are adjusting for peak season inventory in your warehouse. Slot to keep travel time down and the number of touches as low as possible. Slotting is key to making the picking processes more efficient and accurate.
Consider incorporating a batch order picking strategy – where the picker picks multiple orders (batches) at the same time, instead of discrete picking – where the operator picks only a single order at a time.
Have the most popular shipping carton sizes pre-made and staged at the packing stations or pack lines. If you can eliminate the pack operator’s task of manually building cartons, you’re eliminating 20 to 30 seconds from every carton shipment.
Because the volume of product being shipped will increase, there will be more products on the floor. It is important to limit congestion, which may impede workflow. More frequent replenishment often helps to keep the aisles unobstructed. Also, clear signage directing pickers to different areas is very important, especially if you plan to hire temporary workers who may not be as familiar with your DC as full time staff.
Calculate your labor cost per order, and if you are going to rely on temporary or seasonal work, factor in the inefficiencies of new hires and the training costs to cover increased demand. Start hiring a few weeks earlier and train them before the season starts. Think about how much time is wasted by having your best workers training or directing temporary workers during peak periods.
Once the season is over, start planning for next year, identify the bottlenecks and issues at your facilities that better processes and automation could resolve! The changes to consumer’s and B2B businesses parcel order behavior is a permanent shift. Investing in automation that streamlines e-commerce and B2B rapidly pays for itself throughout the year by creating a more efficient distribution process.