Peak seasons require planning and preparedness. As volumes continue to increase, 3PLs can’t just plan for the past historical volumes but must now think beyond and anticipate what may happen.
Part of the planning process is to ensure an “all hands on deck” mentality. Everyone has a role to play in executing during peak shipping seasons. The inbound and outbound processes must work like a well-oiled machine.
Not only do all internal associates need to be fully available for the time needed but the outside resources also need to play their important part. Efficient operations don’t just happen. Successful peak season planning requires insight, understanding how each part of the process impacts the whole. A cross functional team should be assigned to navigate the challenges of peak season issues.
WHO ARE THE KEY PEOPLE WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED IN PLANNING?
INBOUND WAREHOUSE LABOR
This team starts the whole process going. If product is not received accurately, putaway in an optimal location, and entered correctly into the warehouse management system, the foundation of information will impact inventory and the outbound process. This team is cornerstone of the inventory and can provide valuable insight to the challenges.
OUTBOUND WAREHOUSE LABOR
The outbound team has a short window to accomplish their tasks. For this team to be effective, the process must be buttoned down. If issues arise, then the entire outbound process can bottle neck. If orders don’t ship timely as required, customer satisfaction is jeopardized.
This group is the heart of the team. They are in direct communication constantly with the customer. If things go wrong, they will be the first to know. Having representation from this team can bring a “customer view” into the mix and ensure that nothing is missed and customer expectations will be met.
Synchronizing schedules between warehouse and transportation will create a seamless process for the customer. Close communication is necessary so that equipment is utilized effectively and pickup and delivery appointments are met. Having a transportation resource on the team can help communications between the teams. Knowing what the right hand AND left hand are doing will be helpful!
Drivers can give a completely different perspective to the process. They are the ones delivering to the customer and have the relationships with the receiving departments. Understand the driver’s view can bring insight that many don’t have.
Having management involvement can ensure that decisions and approaches are coming from a decision-maker. They have the power to approve off on any changes to processes that are needed. They are also the individuals that will be called by the customer if things don’t go right – so it’s good to have their input and support.
IT STAFF AND SUPPORT
Systems can get bogged down with volumes; Back up plans may need to be changed, etc. There are all kinds of reasons to have the IT team involved in your planning process. Will there be additional RF equipment needed? What about tablets? Do you need to make updates in the system for additional space? The list of questions can go on. If you use technology extensively in your processes – this team is crucial in planning.
If you aren’t using your own assets but using carrier partners, having a “peak season” meeting prior to the event can bring them into the loop as to schedules, equipment capacity needs and expectations. Keeping your partners involved in the process will only contribute to the successful outcome.
Discussions with the customer is the fountain of information. Everything that is planned will be based on data that they have provided. Their involvement in the planning will allow you to button down their expectations and individual customer requirements.
Realizing that it’s difficult to get all parties together constantly is a fact. However, with shared action plans, updates in shift meetings and consistent communication verbally and via email, everyone will feel a part of the team and will understand the sense of urgency for a successful peak season.
Integrated teams that are cross functional give insight to all areas of the business and eliminates any silos within the organization. At Pacific Coast Warehouse we use this integrated team approach to many areas of the business and have found them to be a way to give everyone a feeling of belong and a voice. “All Hands on Deck” is meant exactly that!