Commentary | IT Matters

Is Your Warehouse Ready for Black Friday? Start Preparing This Summer

Tags: Warehousing, Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Distribution, Labor Management, Retail Logistics

Steve Simmerman is Senior Director of Sales, JDA Software, 480​-​308​-​3000

The world of a distribution center manager is changing rapidly. Whether you’re in a B2C or B2B world, it’s no longer about just keeping up with orders, it’s about establishing and maintaining a competitive advantage to deliver both profitably and seamlessly in response to your customer’s demands. And those are getting tougher by the day.

Rising consumer expectations are driving change throughout the supply chain. People now expect flawless service and instant visibility. And there’s no tougher test for meeting those expectations successfully than major shopping events such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. The time is now for warehouse managers to think through the three critical success factors in warehouse labor management so you can deliver a seamless performance under high stress and gain a competitive advantage.

Flexibility

Are your warehouse operations and processes flexible enough to meet your customers’ demands? Are you able to dynamically adjust your labor plans and operational processes to react to changes in your business? In response to these demands, it’s critical that warehouse workflows and user-based configuration are able to be done on the fly, rather than waiting for the IT department to address it.

Scalability

Can you scale quickly to handle surges in today’s multichannel world? Throughout the year, and especially during promotional or seasonal events, you need to plan, react, and scale to changing demand levels. Agile solutions can help you seamlessly scale as you need capacity.

Mobility

Is your workforce mobile-enabled? Mobile devices are now essential tools for empowering both employees and managers right on the warehouse floor. Mobility allows them to access information, proactively identify emerging issues that may impact delivery, and then collaborate to resolve them quickly. Mobility enables employees to be proactive in quickly responding to changing customer demands and providing real-time feedback to supervisors showing the status of planned work from the warehouse management system.

Helping people adapt to change

We all tend to talk about the technical performance details of leading warehouse management solutions, but the real test of their value is how they can help managers and associates react proactively and drive continuous improvements in a rapidly changing environment. Just think of the many challenges that warehouse managers and their teams must address to be ready for a critical event. At a minimum, they probably have to:

  • Schedule available labor based on anticipated work levels
  • Plan waves and manage the flow of customer orders to meet delivery schedules
  • Coordinate with carriers
  • Minimize overtime to meet budget
  • Provide real-time feedback and coaching to their teams throughout the day

Meeting all of these challenges is fundamentally about using technology to enable warehouse associates to adapt to dynamic change. Warehouse and labor management tools need to be highly configurable to help drive operations efficiently and profitably. So it’s not about just upgrading the technical “speeds and feeds,” it’s about enabling warehouse associates to play a stronger, more efficient role and to be better engaged in the business. In today’s competitive labor market, it’s all about becoming an employer of choice and having a high-performance operation and culture.

Enable the role, not the group

When IT managers look at providing mobile-enabled solutions to warehouse associates it might be tempting for them to provide the same app to everyone and call it a day. But making mobility effective in supporting the other organizational goals of proactivity, flexibility, and adaptability requires us to focus on the role the employee is actually playing in the warehouse.

The success or failure of a new mobile application is often determined by how well it’s adopted by employees. For a mobile app to be adopted and used successfully to drive productivity, it all comes down to providing a great user experience (UX). A mobile, role-based UX should be configurable and provide associates with the data they need in the format they want for maximum efficiency. Further, providing a role-based UX encourages employees to contribute to and help improve dynamic workflows so that the warehouse team can continuously do a better job of collaborating with carriers and optimizing dock operations, just to name a few.

Millennial shoppers, millennial associates

We began by talking about the rising expectations of consumers and how warehouse operations must adapt to that. In many ways, the millennial generation is driving those expectations, not just in their own generational group but in the way they influence other age groups. And the same phenomenon is occurring in the warehouse workforce.

Labor retention is a critical issue in warehouse management. Although technology can help you do more with less, you still don’t want to be caught short-handed on Black Friday. Leading warehouse labor management solutions—mobile-enabled and supported by scalable, cloud-based architectures—help your workforce engage more in the business, and that’s a workplace value appreciated by millennials.

The right warehouse labor management solution helps you bring the right number of people with the right skill sets to maximize productivity. But, just as importantly, they will know exactly what they need to accomplish. Then the warehouse can operate more efficiently as a team, and share in the rewards of their efforts. Have a happy Black Friday!






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