It may seem like fourth quarter is months away. It may seem like you will never be shipping to capacity again after a very long first half. But what if you do?
The holiday shipping season is upon us already, and although business may have been way down for your clients, there is a comeback in sight. No matter what the pace of sales turns out to be, you can be prepared if you know and make accommodations for the key elements in the supply chain. Here are 5 things you should know before the crunch time begins:
- Know your inventory. That’s right. You should be familiar with every SKU, how much you have on hand and where it’s located in the warehouse. Make sure it’s organized in a way that makes sense for your type of business. For example, if you are a seasonal warehouse, change the location of your summer and fall product to the back of a pallet rack or in a first-in-last-out racking system.
- Know what’s coming. Work with your suppliers to get their projections of what product will be delivered to you and when. Find out now if you’re going to be short on inventory or if you’ll be overstocked. This way, you can allot the right amount of space for incoming product and make it easy to disperse when shipping it out. Pallets that have three sides open are the convenient for storing incoming inventory, so that you and your team can see at a glance what’s available.
- Know what’s going. Work with your customers to get their expectations for inventory shipping and arrival. Whether it’s the manager of a retail store or an end user, try to estimate the timing of the shipment needs. If a retail customer is having a Black Friday sale, he obviously needs the inventory prior to the sale date. You can easily plan backwards from the day, applying the information you already know about the inventory you have. It’s not too early to start that process. If you can’t get sales forecasts, at the very least, look at sales volume in prior years.
- Know what’s returning. Identify a clear, simple return policy. Make decisions about what is acceptable and unacceptable and communicate this to your front-line staff. Keep it simple and remember to have impeccable customer service no matter what’s coming in and out of the warehouse. Have forklifts, carts or dollies available at the return bay for easy restocking.
- Know your shippers. Plan ahead with your trucking companies or shipping companies. Have the right packing, labeling and shipping supplies on hand and in high enough quantities. Communicate with your team frequently about everything from product shipment to weather alerts.
Implementing any one of these five tips will make your holiday shipping more pleasant, but if you are aware of them all, you’ll be the holiday know-it-all!