For many kids and families, Halloween is right around the corner, which means a night of trick-or-treating and spooky adventures for everyone. But for any Third Party Logistics provider, distribution center, or retail warehouse, this means something else that can be just as frightening: the holiday shopping season.

We all make jokes about how it starts earlier every year, but the fact remains that when November rolls around you need to be ready to go for the holiday shopping season. If you serve as the distribution center or Third Party Logistics partner for a retail outlet, there’s things you can do to help ease the strain on your workers, your inventory, and your facility before the holiday madness is underway:

Consider Automation

People tend to have some mixed reactions to the idea of automation – it’s too expensive, it hampers the workforce, robots are scary, etc. But “automation” doesn’t have to mean giant auto-factory-style robot arms lifting packages and carrying them across the shop floor. Automation is any equipment or process you can introduce to reduce labor time and make things easier on everyone, even if it’s something as simple as getting new inventory software to help keep track of scanned products as they move through the warehouse or adding gravity flow racks and gravity conveyors to move products more quickly. Take a look at where your workers encounter the most bottlenecks, and then see what you can streamline, automate, or remove to help along the way.

Plan For Increased Staffing Needs

  • It’s always the elephant in the room this time of year, but you’re really going to have to beef up those staffing numbers for at least the next few months. Take a look at the sales figures and productivity/KPI stats for the last year or two and ask yourself the following questions:
    How many shifts will we have to run per day during the holiday rush?
  • How many temp workers will we have access to? Do we have a good relationship with a staffing agency, or do we hire in-house?
  • What sort of tasks will the temp workers need to be trained on, and what will that leave the full-time workers to focus on?
  • Will we offer incentive plans and/or holiday bonuses to keep workers motivated?

Set Appropriate Order Deadlines

Particularly for Third Party Logistics providers, you need to be aware of what products your retail partners are promising the customers, and more importantly when they’re promising them. By keeping in touch with your retail outlets and understanding what needs to be shipped when, you can get a good idea of what needs to get out the door. Setting your ship dates a day or two ahead of schedule as often as possible never hurts, either.

Make Sure All Your Teams Work Together

This is a good call year-round for a number of reasons, but particularly during the holiday onslaught you need to get out of the “silo mentality”. Schedule meetings with each of your departments to keep communication lines open across teams and make sure everyone is both working to their capacity – and working together to keep things flowing smoothly.

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