Surviving the holiday rush: 6 tips to prevent disruptions

Dec. 2, 2016

Surviving the holiday season is possible; it just takes a bit of planning and preparation.

By Jonathan Camella, account manager, Abel Womack Inc., an authorized Raymond Sales & Service Center 

The holidays are always an exciting time of the year, but they can also be highly stressful for unprepared businesses. According to the National Retail Federation, as much as 40% of annual retail sales come during the holiday season, and the NRF predicts that retail sales for 2016 will grow over last year's – meaning that this year’s holidays will likely be even more demanding than last year.  There are, however, ways to prepare your organization that can increase efficiency and decrease stress levels during the big holiday rush – especially your warehouse teams. 

1. They say history never repeats itself, but we can certainly learn quite a bit by sifting through historical data. Although sales won’t always be the same, looking at previous years’ sales trends can help predict what this year might look like. This is a crucial step in preparing for the holiday rush because it gives insights into what is “normal” during this time of year. Examine this data carefully and plan accordingly. 

2. An often-overlooked part of preparation is hiring temporary staff to cope with an increased workload. Seasonal employees ensure that operations remain efficient. Due to the increasing popularity of online shopping, retailers are staffing more warehouse workers and fewer cashiers. This is a good time to review your historical sales data to predict how many workers you’ll need to move inventory and keep your operations optimum. The answers are in the numbers! 

3. It’s important to properly train seasonal warehouse workers. After all, more bodies do not automatically result in more production. Train new hires to succeed by investing in best practices, like pedestrian training, and educate them on the potential risks facing them in their environment. Also keep in mind, in addition to being an OSHA requirement to have properly trained forklift operators, it also helps operators make fewer mistakes, leading to greater accuracy and efficiency, and will be your biggest asset in the survival of the holiday rush. 

4. Another way to prepare for the rush is by renting material handling equipment. If you have equipment unexpectedly break down, operators stand idle; you lose productivity; and deliveries can be late or even missed. The holiday season typically is the busiest of the year, with more inventory being moved, so temporarily expanding your forklift fleet to mitigate any business disruption during this seasonal uptick in activity will help keep the warehouse running smoothly. 

5. We are constantly assessing warehouse layouts for maximum efficiency, and the holiday season should be no different. Your fastest-moving products need to be easily accessible for quick picking and optimized operations. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of total revenue comes from only 10 percent to 20 percent of products sold, so slotting these “hot items” in easily accessible spots in the warehouse cuts down on picking and travel time and ultimately increases performance. Fine-tune your methods now so, come the rush, you’ve got less to worry about. 

6. During all the chaos, space may become limited, which can cause serious problems in the warehouse. Space is the most valuable feature of the warehouse, so consider renting space from a third-party logistics (3PL) provider to store your products so you can gain back valuable real estate in your warehouse. Or, if you move quickly, work with a lift truck service center to gain valuable space through the various technologies available to improve storage density. This allows for new inventory to come in with no worries and usually increases productivity, to boot. 

We understand that you can never prepare for everything, but by planning for some of the biggest hassles during your business’s busiest time of year, you can smooth out many kinks ahead of time. Always prepare for the unexpected and the worst-case scenario, but also recognize that some things will happen that you hadn’t thought of. Surviving the holiday season is possible; it just takes a bit of planning and preparation.

About the Author

Alexis Gajewski | Senior Content Strategist

Alexis Gajewski has over 15 years of experience in the maintenance, reliability, operations, and manufacturing space. She joined Plant Services in 2008 and works to bring readers the news, insight, and information they need to make the right decisions for their plants. Alexis also authors “The Lighter Side of Manufacturing,” a blog that highlights the fun and innovative advances in the industrial sector. 

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