Craig Powell, Managing Director, Balloon One presents five top tips for warehousing ahead of the Black Friday retail rush
Black Friday is one of the most important dates in the retail calendar, with slashed prices sending customers into a frenzy to grab the latest deals. While this is great for business, to make the most of the period, you’ll need to prepare your warehouse to cope with the surge in demand. Here, Craig Powell, Managing Director at supply chain solution specialist, Balloon One shares his tips for getting your warehouse in order ahead of Black Friday.
Black Friday is one of the best days for many retailers across the globe, providing a significant surge in sales and, subsequentially, massive revenue opportunity. In fact, the shopping day is so popular that statistics from 2018 showed that Brits intended to spend more than £7bn on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales (Finder).
Whether your business participates in the event every year, or it’ll be your first time, there are some preparations you’ll need to do ahead of the 29th of November. This is particularly important for companies who rely on a warehouse to keep their business ticking. Here, I will be sharing my top tips for getting your warehouse in order ahead of this year’s Black Friday event.
Review and adjust stock levels
When you’re offering your best deals of the year, and perhaps even better ones than your competitors, you have to expect that you’ll see a surge in demand for your products. This means it’s particularly important for you to have the right amount of stock to cater for the increased demand, while ensuring you don’t overdo it. And, you can get this balance right by following a two-prong approach.
First of all, you’ll need to take a look at your previous sales data: the more of it you have, the better. Looking at this can help you to gauge your customers’ purchasing behaviour and the amount of sales you make at different periods throughout the year. It can be particularly useful to look at seasonal periods and important calendar dates for your industry to help predict the minimum amount of stock you’ll need. Warehouse management software is ideal for this type of collection data and so can help you to make smart decisions about everything from stock to staffing.
Secondly, you’ll need to start reducing your stock for greater efficiency. You’ll need to clear out any dead or slow-moving stock to make way for anything new to ensure you can have faster-moving operations. If you’re still not clear on how much product to stockpile, it could be worth talking to your suppliers to see what similar businesses of your size are ordering in. It’s always better to have too much than too little, however having excess amounts of stock can tie up your business cash flow.
Streamline your warehouse layout
With larger amounts of stock and a busier period for your business to contend with, it’s a smart idea to finetune your warehouse operations so that everything runs smoothly and efficiently. Two of the most onerous, yet important parts, of your operations are picking and dispatching, both of which need to take as little time as possible without compromising on quality.
The picking time will be dependent on how well your warehouse is organised, so having a system where each of your product types has a designated section that’s easily accessible is crucial. If you’ve ordered new stock that you anticipate will be popular during Black Friday, having these in pallets or storage boxes that are lower down than your older stock can slash picking times. Similarly, taking the time to separate out different sub-types of products ahead of the day will reduce any mix-ups in orders.
When it comes to reducing dispatch times, it’ll be key to have a designated station where your workers can efficiently do this. In this area, you’ll need to ensure they have all of the materials they’ll need to pack orders effectively and in good time, including packing boxes, bubble wrap and tape.
Consider automating some processes
While some companies will prefer to do everything by themselves, others choose to introduce automatic processes to cope with busy sales periods, so why not try it for yourself? As well as reducing human error and delays, automated processes can speed up many of your warehouse operations, including both packaging and picking.
For example, having a machine that selects stock from high up shelves means your staff don’t have to climb ladders, shortening the time taken to pick and making it safer. Similarly, with so many new orders coming in, it’ll be important that you’re getting completed orders out of the door as quick as possible. To deal with this, try incorporating automation into the packaging process to bring down the time it’ll take before your products can be dispatched.
Get your staffing levels right
Having either too little or too many staff in your warehouse at once during Black Friday can lead to chaos. Not enough people to deal with the orders you’re getting can result in stressed workers, more mistakes and slow picking and dispatch times. On the other hand, too many can make certain aspects of the production line inefficient and can heighten the risk of accidents.
There are no set rules for how many workers you should have on each shift but considering how many you hire on a normal day, and how much this goes up in peak times can help guide you. Perhaps you’ll bring in a new temporary staff member for every certain amount of orders you receive, or simply to cover the extra hours you expect your warehouse will have to stay open — especially if your Black Friday sale will last a couple of days rather than just the one. A great way of making smart staffing decisions is to look at the efficiency data from your warehouse management software to predict just how many people you’ll need on board to help you cope with the Black Friday rush.
Fine-tune staff training and communication
The staff you already have and the extras you employ to cover the busy sale period will play a big part in how well you do over Black Friday. Not only will they be the ones processing, picking and packing orders, but they’re also responsible for the speed and the standard to which this is done.
It’ll be a good idea to retrain all staff, old and new, ahead of Black Friday. This is particularly important if you’re implementing new ways of doing things or automating some of your processes, as you’ll need to make sure that everybody is up to speed with what’ll be happening. This will also boost safety in busy periods when things can be a little chaotic and fast-paced in your warehouse.
As well as fine-tuning your training processes, you’ll also need to implement an effective communication strategy. This involves making sure each member of staff knows who they should report to and where to go if there are any issues. Teams will need to work efficiently and effectively together, so it might help to familiarise them all if they don’t usually work as close. A team-building day or even just a training day done together can help to make everyone feel prepared ahead of the Black Friday rush.
Stay one step ahead of your competitors this Black Friday by preparing your warehouse for the influx of orders. From getting the right amount of stock in, to organising your layout, you’re sure to benefit from taking my top five tips on board.
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