With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and then the Christmas rush fast approaching, the time to get your warehouse ready for the madness is now! Consumers are becoming ever more demanding, expecting faster deliveries than ever before – and shaving off just a few minutes from your packing times can make a huge difference.

Aside from saving you major headaches down the line, done calmly and systematically, improving your warehouse’s efficiency is a great investment in the overall productivity of your business. In addition, you’ve got a great opportunity to clear out old stock and make room for next year!

We take a look at a few simple ways you can get your warehouse running as smoothly as possible, so you can tackle the holiday season with confidence.

Retrain your staff/run refreshers

If you’re bringing in temporary staff to deal with the holiday rush, then it’s crucial they receive adequate training beforehand. Make sure they come in a few days ahead of time to become familiar with the warehouse layout, safety procedures, and equipment.

To make the best use of seasonal labor, try to place temporary workers in the least complex positions, and put your experienced workers where more complicated procedures are involved. Make sure all temp staff know who to go to if they’re uncertain of something, and that your permanent employees know to keep an eye out for common mistakes. It’s also a good idea to conduct an evacuation drill once all your workers are on the floor.

Make sure you’ve got the right equipment and supplies available in advance

Whether it’s laying in an extra store of packaging supplies such as tape and boxes, or checking out deals on forklifts for sale in your area, the more prepared you are before the rush starts, the better. Investing in some extra packing benches, pick-up trolleys and bins to streamline orders can save a huge amount of hassle down the line. You can also investigate using a color-coding system, and grouping common items together to speed up the selection process.

christmas, tree, ornament

Brainstorm potential challenges and bottlenecks

It’s impossible to predict every challenge that might come along, but starting with what could be improved upon from last year is a great first step! What were your biggest hurdles, how did you deal with them, and how can you get ahead of these issues now?

Some other routes to explore might include:

  • Investigate potential alternative transport providers and suppliers, and make contact beforehand to find out what they could offer in an emergency.
  • Invest in temporary or overflow storage.
  • Ensure you have a backup power system or generators in place in case of a power cut.
  • Conduct pallet consolidation to free up additional rack positions.
  • Make sure you’ve got a system in place to receive the latest order flow projections from your sales department.
  • Sit down with supervisors and senior warehouse staff to brainstorm different problems that might come up. If possible, run mock scenarios on the warehouse floor – this is a great way to discover additional practical challenges that might not have been obvious.

Preventative maintenance

When you’re running at full tilt, an unexpected breakdown of a key piece of material handling equipment can bring your entire system to a standstill. It’s the nightmare scenario for every warehouse manager – and you definitely don’t want it to happen during the busiest period of the year.

Create an itemized list of all the equipment you depend on – from the largest conveyor belt to the smallest order printer – and make sure everything that can be serviced has been serviced! Check that you’re up to date on general warehouse maintenance and safety checks.

If you’re able to bring in backup equipment, then now is the time to do it. Not only will it become invaluable in an emergency, it can also be used to help handle overflow work if things are busier than you expected. Just as with all your standard equipment, make sure staff are thoroughly trained in the use of backup equipment and have a chance to familiarize themselves with it before the season starts.

Review your warehouse layout

Do a thorough walkthrough of your premises, keeping an eye open for:

  • A slow-moving stock which could be moved to temporary storage to free up space
  • Opportunities to regroup stock so items which frequently ship together are located near each other
  • Functions which require staff to travel unnecessary distances by foot
  • Any areas where backlogs tend to occur

Finally, once you’ve done your best to remedy these issues, bear in mind that unforeseen challenges are probably going to arise. Knowing you’ve taken steps to prepare yourself and your staff is the best way to keep your cool, and tackle them like a pro!

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