Managing the Holiday Rush in the Warehouse
This blog was co-authored by Mark Severns, Product Marketing Director, and Logan Kluth, Product Management Director.
Whether you are a retailer, manufacturer, 3PL, or in most any other industry, “Black Friday” likely initiates a dramatic shift in the dynamics of your business. In your warehouses the day-to-day flow of goods see peaks and valleys, but the spikes in demand this time of year require flexibility and adaptability in process and technologies to efficiently address the increased throughput and addition of temporary labor. Blue Yonder’s Warehouse Management System (WMS) has been helping businesses navigate the holiday season for decades.
There are a variety of areas where flexible warehouse management capabilities can help respond to the sudden increase in items, resources, and orders.
Preloading Inventory for Stores
When people think about holiday demand, they think of toys, electronics, clothes, and other goods. However, it is estimated that Americans, as an example, eat over 2 billion cookies a year. It’s safe to say many of those cookies are baked and shared with family and friends this time of the year. This increases demand for sugar, flour, ginger, etc. In preparation for the holiday baking season, baked goods ingredients’ providers must make changes to their operations in preparation for the coming spike in demand.
One way to handle the demand spike is, when possible, preloading trailers with inventory before the orders arrive. Where the expected order demand is known, inventory can be loaded on a trailer that becomes prepped for shipping. This saves time and helps the facility be proactive.
Tailor the Warehouse for Faster Throughput
The growth of e-commerce, combined with the holiday rush, drives the facility to adjust their operations. The higher volume of inbounds and shipments may require changes to operational flows. For example, a traditional picking process may shift to pick and pass, allowing for the handling of more goods and taking advantage of additional, temporary labor. Bulk locations may become case pick locations, or additional, temporary each pick areas may be created wherever there is available space to meet the e-commerce demand. Products will be moving through the supply chain more rapidly, prompting an increase in crossdocking and flow through.
Blue Yonder’s Warehouse Management solution’s flexible configurations allow the facility to align their operational changes with the optimal use of technology, ensuring the warehouse doesn’t miss an operational beat.
Engage Temporary Labor
Using the U.S. as an example, estimates show that many Americans will look for extra jobs during the holidays. Like their counterparts at retail stores, the warehouse takes advantage of temporary labor during the season. These days, this may even include temporary robots. Working in a warehouse can be exciting but can also be complicated and potentially dangerous for new, untrained staff.
The goal is to put temporary workers in a position to be successful with an appropriate amount of training. Solutions like Blue Yonder’s Warehouse Management and Labor Management can help.
Through directed work tied to a singular job function, temporary workers can be constrained to a specific silo of tasks where they can add value without venturing into activities they haven’t been trained on. By managing a ramp-up period through Blue Yonder’s Labor Management solution, workers can increase their skills as they become more comfortable in their role over time.
Directed, on-screen tasks enforce the guardrails of their work, eliminating the risk of performing more complicated tasks beyond their skillset. By providing for a learning curve and ramp-up period, temporary staff are measured by a different standard due to their lower experience level versus their more tenured counterparts.
The process might uncover an outstanding temporary worker who may make a good permanent employee. Understanding and being realistic about the amount of work that can be performed by the combination of temporary and experienced staff helps the operation to plan appropriately.
Incorporate Warehouse Execution to Enhance Throughput
With the increased demands on the warehouse generally come an increase to the hours of operations. One shift may go to two shifts, and two shifts may now operate 24 hours.
Evening dock cleanup might not be possible during the busy season. Replenishments that, during the rest of the year, happen at the end of the shift, will have to be done throughout the operating hours as the facility is challenged to manage dramatically more orders; incorporate additional, temporary resources; and oversee other moving parts.
Simple, directed activities may not be enough to efficiently orchestrate all the work. Blue Yonder’s Warehouse Execution System (WES) takes the management of resources and work to the next level.
WES enhances WMS by coordinating work across humans, dynamic robots, and static automation to assign the right resource to the right work at the right time. This decreases steps and smooths operational capacity and critical improvements needed to meet service levels during the holiday. With WES always on and looking for opportunities to drive more efficiency, the warehouse can achieve operational resilience.
Efficiency During the Holidays and Beyond
As order volumes spike this time of year and the warehouse complexity grows it becomes a challenge to meet service levels. Resilient operations can adjust to these seasonal changes and deliver to their customers while running a streamlined, efficient operation, often without the need to expand into temporary spaces.
Blue Yonder’s Warehouse Management, Labor Management and Warehouse Execution solutions help warehouses adapt to demand fluctuations, labor uncertainty and the need to incorporate automation. By providing flexible configurations to match operational changes, engaging temporary or new staff with a learning curve, and orchestrating work intelligently across resources, Blue Yonder’s solutions can help ensure a safe and happy holiday season in the warehouse.