Numina Group Blog

Are You Ready for This Year’s Peak Shipping Season?

September 22, 2023

After several years of explosive growth, retailers are predicting a relatively quiet peak season for 2023, making it seem like “business as usual” for warehouse operations. 

It is not. E-commerce shopping, once considered a standalone phenomenon, has now become a component of consumer demand for multichannel shopping. Consumer shopping preferences continue to evolve, and companies must be ready to respond to stay ahead of the competition.

BOPIS is Now an Expected Shopping Service

Is your warehouse operation ready to meet the diverse requirements of multichannel fulfillment? Today’s customers have fully embraced the benefits of multichannel or omnichannel shopping.

According to a study by Digital Commerce 360, “Retail chains in the Top 500 in 2023 reflect a consumer more comfortable returning to in-store shopping while leveraging online buying capabilities. BOPIS, which stands for Buy-Online-Pickup-In-Store, for retail chains in the Top 500, reached 82.7% penetration in 2023, up from 76.3% in 2022.”¹

From One to Many

Equally important, the world of “one” peak shipping season has been replaced by multiple peak seasons throughout the year, requiring retailers to have agile fulfillment operations that can scale up to sudden peaks in demand and just as efficiently be scaled back during quiet periods.

These changing dynamics indicate the need to create adaptive and efficient picking, packing, and shipping processes to fulfill orders through whichever sales channel customers prefer. 

Seven Steps to Prepare for Peak Season  

For many companies, peak season shipping goes hand-in-hand with higher labor costs. Warehouse automation is the ultimate answer to significantly reducing labor requirements and increasing warehouse operation productivity and profitability.

Blog: Guide to the Basics of Warehouse Automation

If implementing new warehouse automation is not an option, there are other practical ways to make improvements before peak season begins. The following are several aspects of fulfillment operations that can be improved through evaluation and adjustment. 

1. Evaluate Your Slotting Processes

Undertaking a detailed study to redesign your entire warehouse layout just before peak season is not feasible. You can, however, improve product movement through the warehouse by instituting an intelligent slotting system to improve productivity and reduce the labor required to store, move, and replenish products.

The underlying goal of optimizing your slotting strategy is a more efficient and accurate order-picking process.

Blog: What is Slotting in a Warehouse? Tips for Optimization

The first step is to analyze your current slotting process for your entire SKU mix. Products should be slotted to reduce workers’ travel time during picking and reduce the touches required to fulfill orders.

While doing so:

  • Identify the low, medium, and high-moving products.
  • Store the highest movers in the most optimal locations for faster picking.
  • Set up stock to be easily accessible at the storage location.

Consider Implementing Batch Picking

It may also be possible to introduce a batch-picking strategy. In this scenario, workers pick multiple orders (batches) simultaneously rather than filling one order at a time. Batch picking works well when a few very popular SKUs comprise a large percentage of the orders.

Batch picking boosts efficiency by increasing line quantity picking during a storage bin visit – a great solution for peak season shipping. It enables workers to simultaneously pick across a dozen or more orders, resulting in over a 100% productivity gain over discrete order picking.

Optimal Solution: Batchbot™ – Numina’s Batch Picking Solution

Test any process changes you identify beforehand to ensure order accuracy. Research estimates that the costs of miss-picks can drain profits of $400,000 per year from an E-commerce or B2C order fulfillment operation and the loss of valuable customers.

If you implement a new picking strategy, you will need software that manages inventory, orders, and pickers’ tasks to ensure accuracy.

Other questions to ask:

  • Do you adjust product stock to accommodate peak season inventory management?
  • Will the item be picked individually or as a full pallet?

2. Lean Up Packing Operations

Another time-saver is to eliminate the need for pack operators to manually build cartons, which will save 20 to 30 seconds from every carton shipment.

  • Instead, pre-make and stage the most frequently used shipping carton sizes at the pack stations or pack lines.

In the long term, consider shifting to a pick-to-carton process and use cartonization software to analyze the order and auto-select the most efficient carton size. 

As a result, pickers pick directly to the final shipping carton, eliminating the time and touches required to transfer items from the tote to the shipping carton.

Optimal Solution: All-in-One Pack and Ship Automation Solution

3. Limit Congestion

Higher peak season sales often mean a higher volume of products stored on the floor, which can impede workflow and cause congestion. Avoid this challenge by shifting to a more frequent replenishment cycle of smaller quantities so that aisles are unobstructed for continual order flow.

Also, if you are hiring temporary workers unfamiliar with your warehouse, post clear signage to direct pickers to different areas.

4. Calculate Peak Season Staffing Needs

If you hire temporary or seasonal staff during peak shipping season, kick off recruiting efforts early to ensure sufficient time to train new hires in advance. Doing so ensures that your best workers are available to process orders rather than training or directing temporary workers’ tasks.

5. Update Staff Training Requirements & Procedures

Plan early to have staff training programs defined, finalized, and tested before the stress and confusion of peak season hits.

Optimal Solution: Victory Voice™ Picking Suite

6. Conduct Preventive Equipment Maintenance and Audit Spare Parts Inventory

Unexpected equipment downtime is always costly, even more so during peak season. Now is the time to plan for the unexpected.

To minimize this risk, schedule a time pre-season to audit your warehouse systems and ensure your equipment will perform under the increased stress of higher volumes.

  • Schedule preventive maintenance for all warehouse automation technology and material handling equipment.
  • Check your support agreements to be sure they’re up to date.
  • Conduct a spare parts inventory.
  • Stock up on the parts with the greatest potential to break down.

These steps will help ensure that your people and technologies can continue to perform on higher demands on throughput during peak.

7. Plan for the Future

Once the peak season is over, start planning for next year. Consider the major challenges you faced during the peak season and make a plan to improve missteps.

The best approach is to audit your current picking, packing, and shipping operations to identify the bottlenecks, improve your fulfillment processes, and ensure your workflow is based on an effective warehouse design.

Learn More About Numina’s Warehouse Design Engineering Services

As you begin to explore your options, here are some key data points to capture:

  • What is the average order cycle time during peak
  • What is the number of shifts on average compared to the number of shifts during peak season?
  • How many pickers are deployed during an average shift compared to peak season?
  • How many cartons/padded bags were shipped during peak season?
  • What was the highest number of customer complaints? Accuracy, missed delivery dates, etc.?

Download Numina’s Warehouse Automation Preparation Checklist

Once you’ve completed this operational audit, you’re in an excellent position to implement lean distribution operations. In addition to benchmarking current throughput, you can set goals to increase throughput and begin to review and identify the optimal warehouse automation solution for your operations.

By integrating automation and process improvements, you’ll eliminate inaccuracies, reduce labor costs, and remove dependence on temporary workers. It will enable your company to create a more efficient distribution process that scales up for peak-season shipping and pays dividends throughout the year.

Learn More

The Numina Group can help you choose the right blend of automation to increase productivity and scale your business. We have over 35 years of experience as system integrators, designing and implementing automation in new and existing distribution centers. 

Our modular order fulfillment automation solutions allow you to focus on the right blend of automation technology required for the present and add new modules as your business grows.

Contact us to schedule an on-site warehouse assessment before peak season responsibilities fill your calendar.

Peak Season Tips

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