There is a chill in the air and the leaves are taking on a reddish hue. And people just seem to be in a festive mood. That can only mean one thing—we’re heading into the holiday season. It’s the most wonderful time of the year for many, but it can also be the most difficult for some.

Namely, if you manage or work in a manual warehouse or distribution center, you know that the holidays are when order numbers spike. It’s all hands on deck trying to get products out the door on time, with speed and accuracy. It can be quite chaotic unless you’re well equipped and prepared.

With the holidays drawing closer, it’s a good opportunity to reflect and see how ready your facility is for the months ahead. We’ve prepared this handy checklist with questions to consider.

1. Are you well staffed?

The holiday peak season is when you traditionally need as many employees as possible for order fulfillment. Do you have enough people during the rest of the year? If you’re like many facilities today, you may be experiencing labor shortage. To get through the coming season, you can consider hiring seasonal employees. But be sure to properly vet and train them so that they are ready when orders start pouring in.

2. Are you ready to manage seasonal inventory?

During the holidays, many manufacturers will raise their output to meet increased demand. They’ll also offer seasonal options (e.g. the variety of peppermint products leading up to December). This means a lot more inventory. Think about how you can best utilize your existing space, while making sure fast and slow-moving products are easily accessible.

3. Do you have a third-party logistics (3PL) provider to turn to?

You may look at outsourcing your logistics services to a 3PL provider. A reliable 3PL provider is a good option for both bulk orders and smaller direct-to-consumer shipments. They can handle warehousing, order picking, packing, transportation, and other customized services. Plus, we are seeing more 3PL providers embrace automation for added speed and flexibility.

4. Will this be a repeat of last year?

Recall how well you handled last year’s holiday peak season. Was it a struggle? What changes have you made to better prepare your facility this year? If not much has changed, then you could be dealing with the same order fulfillment challenges.

5. Is it time to reevaluate your technology and strategy?

If you see a big gap in your workforce and foresee difficulties managing your inventory and orders, then it might be time to look at automating for the future. An automated order picking system can fill in the gaps left in operations by labor shortage. Upon order receipt, it can rapidly move products from storage all the way to dispatch with speed and precision, easily keeping up during seasonal peaks. Six times more efficient than a manual operation, automation can cut order lead time down significantly, so everyone gets their gifts in time for the holidays.

As you look over this list (and check it twice), we hope it helps to assess your facility’s readiness in the coming months—and for holidays in years ahead. ‘Tis the season.

Author Derek Rickard

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