Is Your Warehouse Ready For A Surge Of Orders? Here's How You Can Tell.

Is Your Warehouse ReadyI recently wrote an article about how a warehouse can take a few basic steps in helping them get through a large holiday season rush… without completely falling apart.

In that article, I covered the 3 basics; testing your warehouse operations ahead of time, educating staff on best ways to operate during a rush, and potentially hiring a 3PL to take some of the legwork out of it all.

But it got me to thinking…

Knowing how you should operate under pressure is different than actually being able to perform when those circumstances are a reality. So how do you know for sure that you are ready?

KPI's Are Everything

Here on the LTX blog, we've talked about what KPI's are and how to monitor them.

But in case you missed that post, here is a quick rundown:

Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPI's, are sets of data that you monitor and modify to increase the performance of your logistics operation.

These sets of data are things like inventory counts, the time between when an order is received and when it actually gets pulled, how many returns you are getting and why, the speed of the loading process, etc…

By monitoring the speed and overall performance of your warehouse's most crucial elements over time you can compare them, and then adjust them, hopefully, to impact performance positively.

And that is exactly what you need to be doing on a routine basis; monitor and track all of your warehouse data.

Every 3 to 6 months, compare the current period of months with the previous. Are you on track with the previous period? Are you halfway through but already have better numbers than you did in the previous 3 months? Or are you doing less in volume?

Now, compare this year's rush to that of the previous year. Did you do better or worse? What did you do differently between this year and last year?

Focus on that difference and work to increase it further or to decrease it to minimize losses.

Without proper monitoring of KPI's, you will not be able to make much of an impact.

Company Culture Has To Be On Point

Unfortunately, there are still companies out there who are not very attentive to their company culture.

And this is a massive downfall that all companies need to avoid… especially during a time when tensions and emotions are high, like during a rush of orders.

The culture or “vibe” of a company is one of the largest drivers of success that every single company has at their disposal.

If your employees aren't feeling appreciated, recognized or challenged..  they will begin to perform roles much less efficiently. They may begin to cut corners just to get through the day a bit faster, put off other tasks that they get neglected, and just appear to be unhappy to be at the warehouse.

If the employees are comfortable, enjoy going to work, and feel recognized, they will perform much better. It’s really as simple as that.

And honestly, those are the type of employees you need on the warehouse floor when you get hit with a massive influx of orders all at once. They are the ones who are going to not only hold their ground… but they will also go above and beyond in the name of the company.

So if you want to ensure that your warehouse is in tip-top shape even in the event of a rush of orders, you need to make sure that the people that power your warehouse are happy. One of the best ways to do this is by a method known as gamification.

We've actually already written an article on how this method is changing the industry and fostering healthy work cultures. You can check out that article right here.

If you can do that, you can confidently weather any season that comes your way.

So, when it comes time to test out your operations before you get caught in a rush… are your employees prepared? Are they excited to be there? Do they feel recognized?

Do Your Employees Know What To Do During A Rush?

None of that other stuff is going to matter very much if your employees are not properly trained to handle a business rush. Nor can the previous two areas we covered in this article be improved upon much without this, either.

A business rush is usually handled just a little differently when it comes to most logistics operations.

This could be any number of ways of working, but it is always done with the goal of taking a workload that has doubled due to a rush and trying to cut down the time it takes to complete said tasks.

Additionally, it may include things such as increased safety protocols, stricter inventory methods, or increasing handling speeds.

Talk with your employees, other managers in-house, or your 3PL service to determine what areas need to be modified and making sure that all of your workers are on the same page.

The Final Step And A Few Final Thoughts

Finally, you need to test your entire operation from start to finish.

To do this, you will use the data from your KPI's to determine what system would work better during a rush.

Then, find some spare time when normal operations have slowed down for the day and gather a few of the leads from every team (by team, I am referring groups of various roles within the warehouse) and walk through a mock scenario. Make it as difficult as you are predicting the rush to be this year and see how well they perform.

Congratulate them for getting faster or reaching a certain goal in the exercise to build confidence and motivation.

Do this a few times a week, if possible, in the month leading up to the rush (if it is a major one that is easily predicted). Throughout the process, teach the new system bit by bit, over and over until it is time for the real thing.

Then when the time comes, your employees will have the confidence to tackle it head-on with a newly learned system that is fresh on their minds and you will have the reassurance that the rush will come and go with little issue.

The next year, follow the same process and double down on what you learned the last time.