Commentary | Supply Chain Perspectives

Getting Distribution Centers in Peak Season Shape

Tags: Distribution, E-commerce, Retail Logistics, Supply Chain

Bill Ravenscroft is Vice President, National Accounts, Adecco Staffing

While the annual peak shipping season begins in August and lasts through the winter holidays, the work for supply chain and logistics distributors certainly doesn’t end come the new year.

In fact, the National Retail Federation’s monthly Global Port Tracker report indicates that cargo volume for January 2017 is forecast at 1.53 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), up 2.7 percent from January 2016.

Throughout the year, supply chain professionals are affected by seasonality across industries. And the stress of peak season is felt throughout the supply chain—from manufacturers and retailers to third-party logistics providers (3PLs), steamship lines, and transportation and logistics intermediaries.

Distribution centers (DCs) play a key role in the overall success of each peak season, as supply chain professionals must meet the surge in consumer demand and fulfill orders efficiently. To do this, here are quick pointers to help you identify and fill seasonal needs of distribution centers.

  • Start early. Work backward from each peak season and be sure you allocate enough time earlier in the year to put the proper resources in place. You might consider hiring seasonal workers who can assist with some of the ongoing smaller tasks while your full-time employees handle the main operations of the DC.
  • Evaluate your needs and construct a plan. Review company data from last year, and then schedule a meeting with your team to discuss which work streams might need extra support. Were there products that sold out early, or others that gathered dust on the shelves? Determine how long it takes each item to move through the supply chain and don’t wait until the last minute to stock your inventory.
  • Reach out to past seasonal employees. If you hired temporary workers last year, reach out and determine if they are interested in returning for another season. Proactively opening communication will ensure they feel that their contributions are valued and increase the likelihood of their loyalty.
  • Ask for referrals from existing employees. When looking for seasonal workers during crunch time, recruit smarter, not harder, in order to ensure you are still hiring qualified applicants. Your long-term employees can recommend friends or former colleagues who are more likely to have the appropriate skill set you are seeking.
  • Tap into social media. Broaden your reach by utilizing social networks, job boards, and talent communities to source and pipeline candidates. It’s simple and relatively cost effective.
  • Reach a broad audience. A number of different people are interested in seasonal labor, such as stay-at-home parents, retirees, high school and college students, the unemployed, as well as part-time employees willing to work a second or third job. In today’s tight candidate market, be sure you are attracting a wide talent pool to maximize your recruiting efforts.
  • Find the right cultural fit. Beyond having the right technical skills, be sure to screen your candidates properly during the interview process to determine if they have the necessary work ethic and soft skills to handle the job. Will they be able to keep up in a fast-paced environment? What would they do if a shipment was lost or damaged?
  • Be competitive in your offerings. Many candidates looking for seasonal work have other part-time jobs or family commitments. Stand out among your competitors by offering perks that will be enticing to this group, such as free lunch, flexible hours, paid time off, and opportunities for growth.
  • Partner with a professional. A contingent labor firm can be a great resource to help you manage the recruiting and interviewing process, as well as other HR needs during peak seasons. The partnership will free up your time for other responsibilities and ensure each candidate hired is qualified and a good cultural fit.
  • Prioritize training. During the busy season, you can’t afford to have avoidable mishaps due to poorly trained temporary workers. Spend time communicating priorities and processes with new employees at the onset, so you don’t need to explain what went wrong to disgruntled retailers or customers.

Gear up for success today by putting the proper staff in place to tackle the challenges of the peak season and beyond.