March 2013 | How-To | Ten Tips

Preparing Your Supply Chain For Seasonal Peaks

Tags: Supply Chain Management

Failing to secure efficient labor, sufficient warehouse space, and reliable carriers for seasonal peaks can wreak havoc on your supply chain. Kyle Oslos, director of logistics for APL Logistics, offers the following advice to help you prepare for peak season.

1. Verify and clarify your relationships with staffing providers. Whether you use one temporary staffing firm or many, don't assume they will provide all the personnel you need when you need them. Confirm your anticipated requirements and iron out the particulars of your working arrangement in advance.

2. Initiate abbreviated training programs. Well-established, quick-hit training can rapidly acquaint short-term personnel with your facility's most important safety, layout, and process flow information.

3. Divide and conquer. For maximum efficiency and minimum stress, leave complex and essential warehousing tasks to your long-term personnel. Use temporary workers for assignments that are simple and/or confined to a small area, such as labeling items.

4. Redefine your facility boundaries. It's not unusual to exceed a facility's standard capacity during peak season. Take stock both inside and out to determine areas you could temporarily repurpose for product storage. Queue up trailers and use your secure truck yard for overflow space, or temporarily use some aisle space to process products.

5. Streamline space via a 5S, Lean, or other quality initiative. Continuous improvement tools aren't just for eliminating waste in business processes. If your company has a Lean team, tackle a detailed space utilization project several months before peak season. This could significantly minimize or eliminate the need for overflow space.

6. Revisit shift structure. Maximize your facility's labor capacity by adding extra shifts to each day, tacking an extra day or two onto the work week, or increasing shift lengths.

7. Tune up equipment. Before the peak season, assess the working condition of every significant piece of equipment at your facility. Repair, recharge, and purchase spare parts as necessary. Perform a gap analysis to determine whether you'll need to buy or lease additional items to handle the volumes expected.

8. Consider crossdocking or deconsolidation. Establish crossdocking within your facility so you can unload, stage, and reload hot products without having to wait for receiving and put-away. Or work with a deconsolidation center near your port of entry so certain products can go directly to their final destinations instead of spending time moving to and from your facility.

9. Get to know Plan B carriers. During seasonal down time, ship some items via Plan B carriers to test them in case your preferred carriers are unavailable during peak season.

10. Refresh your knowledge about expedited transportation options. Inventory emergencies or lapses tend to occur during the peak season. Avoid disruptions by learning your expedited service options, such as time-definite ocean transportation, air-sea, sea-air, and team-driver trucking services. Explore these options now, so you can deploy them when activity heats up.