COVID ignited a boom in holiday e-commerce last year, marking a 32.2% growth and reaching $188.2 billion in sales. With the threat of COVID still looming and a new variant making its rounds, experts estimate that this year will be another banner year for e-commerce.
What’s alarming is that many carriers fear they won’t be able to keep up with the increased demand. The number of packages being shipped during peak demand is likely to overshadow delivery capacity. UPS estimates that overage will amount to about 5 million packages each day!
The need for 3PLs to fire on all cylinders has never been more essential. Minimizing hangups in the warehouse and fulfillment processes can help to reduce any delays during peak season that are brought on by logistics carriers.
Right now, the best thing 3PL companies can do is to start preparing now for what will likely be a busier holiday e-commerce shopping season. Having a strategy and the right people and tools in place can help you ease into the chaos and avoid roadblocks that could delay fulfillment.
Start Staffing Early
Labor shortages are affecting nearly every industry, from restaurants and retail to healthcare and education. In April 2021, job openings sat at an unprecedented 9.3 million vacancies.
For many 3pl companies, staffing shortages will affect operations, especially if you wait until closer to the holiday e-commerce season when thousands of other employers are also trying to secure seasonal help.
Our advice: don’t wait. Staffing your warehouse early means having ample time to train new employees on processes and systems. It also helps them get to know their coworkers and feel confident in their roles before chaos takes over.
Do a Deep Warehouse Cleanout
With the rise in holiday e-commerce shopping comes an uptick in the number of sellers and items that 3PL companies serve. Every cubic inch of space becomes increasingly important so that you can keep up with demand from retailers and their customers.
Now is a good time to do a deep clean of your warehouse to consolidate when possible and reallocate space for goods.
- Add temporary storage space for shipping supplies to free up closets and storage rooms.
- Minimize aisle widths to add more racks.
- Remove debris and unused equipment that’s taking up valuable floor space.
- Get rid of unused or broken pallets.
- Use your warehouse management system to locate rarely picked items and adjust their real estate space accordingly.
The more space you can free up, the more customers you can serve during the peak holiday e-commerce season.
Test Your Warehouse Management System Equipment
Slow processes and faulty equipment can slow down the fulfillment process. In turn, this may increase delays to the customer. Start taking inventory of all of your scanners, mobile computers, label printers, and other equipment. Items that aren’t working should be sent out for servicing immediately so you can get them back in time for the holidays.
In some cases, upgrading to a new warehouse management system before the holidays can streamline your operations. If you’re considering making this investment, start implementing your new system early so your people can become familiar with it before the rush.
This year, it might be particularly beneficial to upgrade to a new system if it means being able to automate some of your processes. Automation makes you less dependent on people resources. You may be able to alleviate some of your holiday hiring pains. It can also make your processes less prone to error, which allows you to keep moving forward and not have to stop and fix issues that will cause costly holdups in the warehouse.
Plan for Shipping Delays
Last year, shipping delays were a hot topic among consumers, companies, and warehouses alike. In fairness, delays were to be expected given the challenges of COVID: There was an ongoing labor shortage. There were extra precautions warehouses and logistics companies had to take. Disruptions in the supply chain and the increased volume in online ordering created a perfect storm.
Many reports are once again calling for shipping delays in Q4 of 2021, which will affect 3PL companies at both ends.
On the receiving side, shipping delays mean a longer gap between retailers and distributors sending their products and 3PL warehouses receiving them. Because time is of the essence during the holiday season, receiving, processing, and sorting items quickly will be key.
On the shipping side, end users will likely experience delays in receiving their items. Being able to pick, pack, and ship items almost immediately after the order enters your system can help to reduce the total delivery time. This is even more essential if the logistics carriers are falling behind.
Working with a warehouse management system like Zenventory cuts out a lot of the back-and-forth between the warehouse and its customers by sending orders straight from the retailer’s website to the warehouse. It supports quick action and fulfillment, saving valuable time and steps in the process.
Stock Up on Supplies
For the most part, the goods entering and leaving your warehouse belong to your customers. But warehouses also import their own supplies, such as boxes, labels, packing materials, and general office products. With the increased demand on carriers and the high potential for delays, start stocking up on the supplies now.
Running out of key items that make your warehouse tick can set off a domino effect of holdups. This is another good reason to consider investing in automation and a digital warehouse management system this year. Digital tools cut down on the need for paper and other supplies, while automation reduces the potential for errors and costly reprints.
Getting Ahead of Holiday Ecommerce Starts Now
Holiday e-commerce preparations start now. Gett ahead (and hopefully stay ahead) of what’s expected to be the busiest holiday season yet.
Zenventory is here to support 3PL companies. We provide total warehouse management systems that can streamline your operations and give you confidence in your processes. Learn more when you schedule a demo.