Operations & Fulfillment: Better Than Santa's Elves
3. Improve packing productivity. Cushioned floor mats, tables with adjustable height to make them more ergonomic, large enough work surfaces, cubbyholes for inserts are all beneficial. Cartons and packing materials should be replenished to the pack stations so packers don't have to leave their station, maximizing productivity.
4. Manage your shipping expenses. For example, prioritize orders to ship as many by ground as possible. Move West Coast orders to the front of the queue and hold East Coast orders back to still meet promised receipt dates. Share your projections with your shipping carriers. Can you get extended pickup times for shipments and trailers to load during the day?
5. Alert your shipping carriers that you may need additional trailers for increased volumes. Rental trailers "spotted" on your lot can create additional seasonal storage space.
6. Name seasonal managers. Which full- and part-time workers can step up to be seasonal supervisors? Give them an incentive to do so for the holidays. At end of season they give up the responsibility.
7. Identify your best labor source. The most productive people are those who have worked for you in Christmases past. Stay in touch with them, nurture that resource and offer them an incentive to join again.
8. Try a "recruit a friend" program. Productive, effective employees often know good people who are looking for extra money. Offer them a small bonus if they reruit a friend or relative.
9. Offer a bonus to work the entire season. Along with returning seasonal workers and recruit a friend, offer an additional bonus to those employees who work the entire holiday season. Employees quitting early hurts your business.
10. Use temp agencies. Some of our clients have had great results sourcing seasonal labor from temp agencies. Doing so also gives you a preview of workers you might consider as full-time associates. Companies often don't want to pay the additional costs.
11. Implement a "buddy system." Assign each seasonal associate a "buddy" that's a year-round associate. Task the year-round associate to be available to answer all of their buddy's questions and help them be productive. Clearly identify responsibilities which are managerial in nature; they have to be referred to line managers.
12. Have a safety and security policy in place. Is your facility a safe place to work? Knowing how your facility changes with the increased order volume of the holidays, what changes are necessary to your policy? For example, allowing replenishment and put away during off-hours to reduce aisle congestion.
13. Have a disaster response plan in place. Be sure your "telephone tree" is up to date in case inclement winter weather throws you a curve. Are your seasonal workers on this list? Do they understand your emergency plans?
14. Head off back orders. The No. 1 source for creating customer service problems is back orders, not processing in the distribution center. Work with management to see if inventory control or your merchants can change their processes, and follow up on open purchase orders two weeks in advance of expedited receipt dates. The holidays are a busy time for everyone; give info about item availability to all customers.
15. Run second and third shifts. Put in place second and third shifts to keep up with the increased order volume. Schedule replenishment tasks for off-hours so the bulk of your staff isn't impeded by pallets and MHE in the aisles. This will improve facility safety, too.