As we adjust to the cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours of autumn, it becomes evident that winter is around the corner and soon we will be braced with the presence of Christmas. For many businesses this time of year is their most profitable as our nation’s spending habits dramatically increase and demand reaches higher levels. A multitude of organisations benefit greatly from this seasonal spending peak as many retailers, food and beverage specialists, manufacturers and logistics companies seize this yearly opportunity to increase sales and productivity, resulting in a surge in profits. Although this an exciting prospect, it’s important to be prepared for the sudden change in demand to prevent what should be the most fruitful time of year from becoming the most stressful and chaotic.
An unusual but substantial increase in demand will inevitably present fresh challenges for warehouses and distribution centres across the country as they strive to retain their usual high standards in customer service and delivery times whilst managing the sudden surge of inventory and activity. The effects on overall profitability can be devastating if your usually organised warehouse or distribution centre suddenly goes haywire and is unable to function at the expected level of competency, especially at a time where the potential to increase profit is much higher.
Advanced planning will help you fend off those potential Christmas hurdles and by taking the opportunity to implement strategic adjustments ahead of the Christmas rush, any increased level of activity will be much more manageable because your warehouse or distribution centre is already prepared. There are ways of ensuring your warehouse is Christmas ready, by using techniques which can help future proof your warehouse for any situation where a sudden rise in demand prompts unusually high volumes of inventory and activity. Being prepared will give you the great advantage of an increased ability of continual productivity throughout the season without major unexpected costs or disasters.
Reviewing the patterns from previous seasons, supplier arrangements and current trends can help you to estimate what your expected stock needs will be during this coming seasonal peak. This forecasting is a vital part of the initial planning process as it gives an idea of what to expect in terms of inventory flow, speed and volume. This combined with a careful analysis of how inventory was managed in previous years will allow you to identify key areas which may require adjustment in advance.
As the additional seasonal inventory starts flowing into the facility it will need an orderly route from the point of entry to the point of despatch. How effectively the inventory moves through the warehouse, depends very much on how the warehouse is laid out. An early assessment of individual sections of the warehouse will help identify any areas which could be adjusted prior to the peak season. You may find that some particular items are often despatched together so moving their storage positions to keep them closer together would enable a quicker, more efficient picking process. Your most popular items could be moved so they are closer to the despatch area and your least required items could be located in a less busy area. Sometimes a few alterations to better accommodate specific types, flow, volumes and accessibility of stock can make a huge difference to overall productivity and not just at high season but throughout the year.
Warehouse Space Utilisation
If the surge in demand had previously resulted in the need to acquire extra external storage space at an additional cost to get you through the season you may be predicting the same scenario this season, however a full and thorough review into how your current warehouse facility operates could lead to some surprising discoveries. As you carefully analyze specific aspects of your facility including layout, storage equipment, inventory management, picking and loading procedures as well as packing and shipping processes you may find that the current space within your warehouse is more than adequate to support peak periods such as Christmas, it’s just a case of utilizing that space to use it to your advantage. There are some very cost effective techniques which can cleverly utilize the whole warehouse space, transform your operation and improve productivity.
Full usage of vertical space – Your racks are at full capacity even before the sudden influx of more pallet loads of inventory, but how high is your racking? Is there plenty of head space between the top of your racking and the ceiling? If there is then that area is currently being used to store air when it could be put to valuable use. It may be high up but it is still space so why not use it? Additional rows of racks above the height of your current racks could be the perfect solution for ensuring your warehouse is always prepared for any type of increased business activity, including Christmas.
Department Space – Although you want to avoid cramped working conditions, there is also the issue of using much more space than required in particular department areas within the warehouse. It’s a case of striking the right balance when considering how much space is sufficient for each department to operate productively. Carefully take into account the amount of space each department occupies and measure the activity levels in comparison to that space to determine how much space each requires in order to operate comfortably during normal and very busy periods. It could be that the despatch area can often be very tight on space whereas the office area is occupying a much larger area than required. Perhaps the packing area seems cluttered and cramped but with a thorough reorganisation of this area it could once again become an area of sufficient size.
Aisle Width – Have you ever walked down the aisle between your racks and wondered about the reason for them being so wide? The truth is, there no reason if your warehouse has a large footprint and wide lanes between the rows of racking, however there are plenty of reasons for making them narrower and the main one is that it provides the ability to substantially increase the number of pallets you can store.
Deep Storage – Your current storage system is standard wide aisle racking which is ideal for your warehouse operation, however you have concerns that there may not be enough pallet spaces once the extra loads of Christmas stock comes flooding in. How can you increase your ability to store more pallets easily without major disruption or cost? This can be achieved by repositioning your racks back to back reducing the number of aisles and making room for even more racks. This cost effective solution works by effectively converting redundant aisle space into valuable storage areas and is ideal when storing high volumes of the same product and stock rotation is not a priority.
Mezzanine Floor – Another solution which utilises overhead space is the installation of a mezzanine floor. With sufficient height space the semi-permanent structure of a mezzanine floor is a very viable option which can potentially double your floor space without extending the building itself. The additional floor level sits above your current operations and can be used in a number of different ways. It may be that the mezzanine floor is used as office space, freeing up more space on the ground level for storage and production, or the mezzanine floor may be better used as an additional storage area and may be fitted with another means of storage such as shelving. If the vertical space allows, a multi-tier mezzanine floor provides multiple levels which again can be used for various purposes including office, storage, production or packing.
WSL can make it easy and straightforward
To prevent your warehouse or distribution centre from becoming a cluttered, chaotic version of Santa’s workshop where the only hope is a Christmas miracle, now is the time to start planning. Here at WSL we have our very own team of Santa’s little helpers who are on hand to help ensure your warehouse is ready and fully prepared for Christmas. Within our own workshop we can create bespoke solutions truly unique to your particular operation whilst saving you time and money. As a family owned business with 30 years of extensive knowledge and expertise we have the ability to help your business prosper over the festive season. All of our manufactured products are accredited to CE Mark BS: 1090 and as a full SEMA member you will receive the highest standards in terms of quality, safety and professionalism from the initial consultation to the final installation.