Case study

Warehouse Wellness Check: A Post-Christmas Evaluation

Jan 5, 2024 | Pallet Racking

How did your warehouse fare during the Christmas rush?  Undoubtedly, during the last few months, your operation will have needed to handle soaring demand, but did it sustain a festive rhythm as it undertook the challenge? The calm after the holiday bustle offers the opportunity to pause reflectively! In this post-festive blog post, our guidance will take you through a comprehensive evaluation, helping you to unwrap insights and analyse the highs and lows of the recent holiday revelries, and help foster a path towards greater resilience and efficiency.

Why conduct a post-festive evaluation?

Evaluating warehouse performance after the Christmas rush is a foresight approach to learning from the challenges encountered with opportunities to adjust and improve ahead of the next peak season. It’s a strategy which aids the overall resilience, durability, and efficiency of the warehouse in the years ahead.

Warehouse Performance Evaluation

Reflecting on the rush: Analysing holiday performance

The festive season will see a warehouse undergo a series of significant changes as activities and processes accelerate to meet intensified demand. Almost instantly, there appears to be more workers, activity, movement, and items and this continues all season long. Central to this transformation is the need to meet customer expectations and maintain high levels of service with emphasis on efficiency, flexibility, and competence. If your warehouse operation mirrors this scenario during the peak season, its important to ascertain how it performed by analysing the following areas:

Order Processing: Evaluating Christmas Operations

Evaluating order processing performance during the festive period is a critical undertaking for any warehouse or fulfilment operation. More than just a reflection exercise, understanding how well the process was managed will provide a comprehensive insight to how the warehouse operation copes under the pressures of heightened seasons. Consider the following to determine how well your warehouse performed during the festive customer order fulfilment……..

  • Span for order fulfilment – Establish the average time it took to despatch orders from the time they were place. Was your warehouse able to keep the promise of speed?
  • Order accuracy – Review the rate of errors for incorrect items, wrong quantities, and inaccurate shipping information.
  • Variations in order volume – Were there any fluctuations such as a spike in order volumes on certain days that are unexpected.
  • Return rate – Monitor the rate of returns, particularly post-Christmas and document the reason for the returns. How many of those are due to operational error?
  • Customer feedback – Gather and analyse customer feedback, both positive and negative to establish where the strengths and weaknesses within the fulfilment process.
  • Communication – Were customers kept informed throughout the process?
  • Technology – Did your systems suffer from malfunctions at any point which leads to downtime, delays, and errors?
  • Staffing – Was the operation supported by sufficient staff levels and operator competency throughout the season. If seasonal staff were recruited, were they utilised effectively?
  • Compare to previous festive seasons – A comparative analysis will highlight areas of struggle in previous years, subsequent improvements and whether they were beneficial.

Order Processing

Inventory Harmony: Assessing post-holiday stock management.

A post-holiday stock analysis provides useful information that allows for informed decisions when it comes to restocking, clearance and whether storage configuration adjustments are required. It also gives insights that will guide future forecasting and how you plan for the next peak season.

  • Inventory accuracy – Count all stock and check the details against the stock management system to discover any discrepancies or errors.
  • Stock levels – Establish overstock and understock situations to help detects any missed sales opportunities whilst using the information to assist improved forecasting for the next peak season.
  • Clearance – Identify slow moving seasonal goods or seasonal sales and those used in offers which didn’t produce high sales. Then establish clearance sale prices to move the stock from the warehouse.
  • Storage – Assess current storage systems and configurations to determine whether adjustments are required to help manage surplus stock or goods that could be saved for the following season.
  • Returns – Whether more or less than expected in terms of volume, returns must be managed effectively and documented.

Stock assessment

Staffing Strength: A close look at workforce resilience

The impact warehouse staff can have on a peak season operation is significant and can affect everything from achieving optimal order picking right through to how the customer feels about the service. Their actions, abilities, competence, and performance have great influence when it comes to efficiency, accuracy, speed, and safety. How did your warehouse staff fare when it came to the following crucial areas?

  • Order processing – Did your operators, pickers and packers contribute to a timely and error-free order fulfilment process?
  • Inventory management – Were inventory records maintained and accurately kept throughout the season?
  • Automation utilisation – Were staff efforts utilised effectively by maximising all auto-assisted systems such as the first-in first-out FIFO method which saves time on manual stock rotation?
  • Communication and collaboration – Were there instances where customer satisfaction was impaired due to a simple communication error between team members?
  • Safety compliance – Did any safety incidents occur, causing injury, damage, or delayed productivity?
  • Customer satisfaction levels – How well were customer enquiries handled and were orders processed in a timely fashion?
  • Returns processing – Effecting inventory accuracy and customer satisfaction, is reverse logistics being processed effectively by the team?
  • Adaptability – How well did staff adapt to the peak season workload? Were there any notable issues in relation to work efficiency, accuracy, or the general handling of higher order volumes. Was your space and storage systems able to support higher inventory volumes and increased activity?

Staffing Strength

Sleek efficiency: Post Christmas Evaluation of Automation

Whilst warehouse automation is a fine method for promoting efficiency, accuracy, speed, safety, and adaptability, the right automation setup is pivotal for its success. Demanding periods add pressure, even on automated systems, and the following would indicate a few improvements may be needed to improve the handling of the next high peak season.

  • Low efficiency: Operational processes suffered more delays than anticipated, effecting the ability to meet customer demands and make timely deliveries.
  • Limited scalability – Limitations were identified in relation to the systems ability to handle peak volumes.
  • Staff felt challenged – Staff feedback indicated the system requires improvement having experienced working with the system during the peak period.

Customer Satisfaction Check: Feedback and Improvements

How your customers feel about your service over the festive period is a crucial indication of how well your warehouse operation handled the surge in demand. You can measure customer satisfaction levels by analysing all feedback including reviews, emails, letters, and surveys. It’s important to respond to all customer feedback whether positive or negative and improve the areas found to be concerning customers ahead of the next challenging season.

Returns Resilience: Handling post-holiday reversals.

The rush is over, its now time to expect a wave of returns. Customers are looking to receive their exchange or refund as quickly as possible so its important to ensure the returns are handled efficiently rather than allowing them to flood the operation.

Warehouse inventory management

Compliance to Safety Review: Maintaining standards.

A high peak season creates more movement, higher inventory volumes, and intensified activity, and this is a combination that can see an increased risk of safety incidents. Such occurrences can result in injury, damage and downtime, something that any warehouse would look to avoid, particularly during critical operational periods.  The indications that the safety of your warehouse may have been compromised during the peak season include:

  • A rushed and fatigued workforce – as staff worked to keep to the pace of demand, the additional workload and time pressures could have meant cutting corners when it came to safety protocol to meet targets.
  • Traffic jams- If warehouse congestion was commonly observed throughout the Christmas rush, there was in increased risk of collisions.
  • Untrained temporary staff – Whilst only there for the holiday season, without sufficient training, temporary staff can cause more issues than being of help if safety procedures and protocols are not understood.
  • Unfamiliar handling procedures – Some peak season inventory types may have storage and handling requirements that the operational teams are unfamiliar with and mishandling those goods as a result could cause safety issues.
  • Not enough storage – A recent survey shows that 43% of warehouses suffer from congestion in the storage areas. Congestion in the peak season mixed in with more movement, people and activity can pose safety risks as boxes, pallets and goods can block routes.
  • Increased debris – With more goods to store, pick and pack, more packaging material is required and discarded pieces can accumulate and cause a trip or fall.

Racking being inspected by trained operative (1)

Lessons Learned: Insights for future holiday seasons.

Numerous positive outcomes can arise from undertaking a post-festive performance assessment of your warehouse. The evaluation highlights successes and shortcomings, both of which can be learned from making it a vital necessity for any warehouse looking to secure gains from the festive season. The findings can guide new targeted improvements that will boost overall efficiency whilst enhancing readiness for upcoming peak seasons.

Beyond the Rush: A strategic conclusion for peak season warehousing

Whilst it may seem like a long way off, it’s never too early to start preparing for the next peak season! And in all honesty, starting early could save you time and money in the long term.

Start by looking at ways to prevent concerning and unexpected safety incidents from occurring at any time of the year which will lessen the risk of one occurring at critical peak times. If you haven’t yet scheduled your annual pallet racking inspection, now is a good time to book it! A professional racking inspection carried out on a yearly basis is a proactive measure to help you maintain the safety of your warehouse all year round, so when the peak season arrives, at least you can be confident that your operation is less likely to be halted by a serious safety issue. Inspections don’t just apply to the pallet racking structures either. Your warehouse shelving and other systems such as cantilever racks can be assessed too as can mezzanine floor safety inspections!  Another prudent step would be to ensure your warehouse staff are trained to inspect racking so they can carry out internal checks throughout the year. This can be an added benefit during peak seasons when the structures are being worked harder than usual as this in-house capability enables more frequent safety checks throughout the season.

If this season proved to be more difficult due to insufficient storage, you are probably considering improvements for the next season. With a year head start, you can use the coming months to your advantage by saving time, money and disruption by upgrading your pallet racking progressively throughout the year!

If speed was the biggest issue this past season, there are two avenues you could explore so you don’t have the same delays next season. One is to improve the warehouse layout to enable a more streamlined and less chaotic workflow going forward. The other option is to consider implementing dynamic storage solutions which enhance speed, can assist stock rotation and makes human labour less demanding.

Was limited space the biggest issue of the festive period? Maybe demand was much higher than expected which left you with more stock than you had the space for? The suggestion here is not to find a larger space to cover future peak seasons, but to improve how you utilise the space you currently have so it can serve your operation well during peak and none-peak periods. There are several ways to achieve this, however your individual requirements and the dimensions of your space will dictate the right solution for your operation. It could be that adding another floor level through a mezzanine installation would work best as it gives your office staff a dedicated work area or it could be used to store extra pallets. Another option, if height space is currently unutilised would be to build taller racks so you have the extra capacity to store seasonal goods! The VNA racking system offers both height and floor space utilisation at the same time and can be quite a speedy solution when you add pick and deposit stations (P&Ds) so you achieve improved space utilisation and can keep with the pace of peak season fulfilment. Not all warehouse spaces have such generous height space but worry not if that’s your warehouse. High density storage solutions are a fantastic way to maximise space, increase storage capacity and support inventory needs such as rotation and speed. These storage types allow the pallets or goods to be stored in a more compact configuration using deep lanes and minimises the space needed for access aisles.

For more advise or help planning a more capable operation when it comes to any peak season, contact WSL today and speak to a member of our expert design team! Call 0113 2045350 or email sales@wslmail.co.uk

 

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