It’s vital to get products to customers as quickly and efficiently as possible, and you can achieve that through having a first-class distribution operation. Logistics are very complex — you’re managing multiple orders, a sizable workforce, stock and inventory, vehicles, drivers, pickers, technology, warehousing, storage, and more.
This complexity is compounded during busy times of the year, but you can’t compromise on speed or quality of service. Instead you need to predict when these seasonal variations are likely to happen and ensure you have the workforce and operational plan in place to distribute goods efficiently. That way you can maximize satisfaction and ensure you get goods to your customers on time.
Here’s how to achieve that.
Start Planning for Busy Times, Right Now
Planning ahead takes energy and effort, and you don’t want to get caught with unexpected delays. Start your operational and staff planning now to ensure you’re prepared for the future. There are a number of areas you’ll need to analyze as you pull together a plan for future needs and seasonal variations, and it can take longer than you think.
Look at Historic Logistics and Distribution Demands
Most businesses have seasonal variations in demand that happen year after year. Dig into your analytics and reporting to see what your busiest times are. Explore the following areas:
- Goods in from suppliers.
- Goods out to customers.
- Inventory levels.
- Number of orders received and fulfilled.
- Workforce staff levels.
- Anything else that helps you get a complete understanding.
Consolidate your findings and build a picture of how historical trends have impacted on logistics.
Understand Future Business Strategy, Sales, and Marketing Initiatives
Historical trends aren’t enough by themselves. Link up with business strategy and talk to sales and marketing. See what initiatives are coming down the pipe that are likely to increase sales and create more demand in logistics and distribution. This might be expansions into new markets, promotional and advertising campaigns, new product launches, or something else.
Combine any findings with your historic analysis to predict likely future workloads. This should give you a baseline forecast of what future demand is likely to be. It might be worthwhile to create two or three predictions of future demand, based on different business scenarios.
Explore All Logistics Areas Where You Will Need More Staff
Because of the complexities of logistics, you will need to explore multiple areas to establish your likely staffing and operational needs. These include:
- Goods in — ordering and receiving goods from suppliers for onward sale.
- Back office — order and account management, administration, and other operational needs.
- Inventory — stock and inventory levels and reordering.
- Storage — intra-warehouse transport and storing goods until they are sent out.
- Picking — getting goods from storage bays and preparing them for distribution.
- Packing — placing goods in packing materials for sending out.
- Goods out — putting goods into vehicles for distribution.
- Distribution — managing your fleet of vehicles and drivers.
- Returns — managing returns from customers.
You will need to take account of all these areas when you’re planning your workforce for busy times.
Look at Your Current, Permanent Logistics Workforce
For each of the areas listed above, take note of your existing workforce. Examine how many people are in each area and their capacity to deal with increased demand. Use your forecast to predict where there are likely to be shortfalls. Take into account rotas, shift patterns, and staff vacations. Ideally, you should plan this out day by day and week by week, so you have an excellent understanding of workforce needs throughout logistics.
Complete a Gap Analysis with HR
When you know your current workforce and likely future demand, you will have a “gap analysis.” This will drive your recruitment and temporary worker strategy so you can easily plug holes and ensure you can continue to meet customer demand. Work with HR to understand the best ways to get temporary workers during busy times, so that distribution doesn’t suffer.
Get Temporary Workers in Place
There are plenty of ways to hire temporary workers for logistics, including directly, via staffing agencies, or via the Wonolo on-demand staffing marketplace and app. Whatever method you choose, ensure you have enough time between identifying workforce needs and placing workers, including onboarding and training.
Ensure All Your Non-Workforce Logistics and Distribution Needs are Met
Planning for seasonal trends in logistics isn’t just about having enough people — look at the other parts of your operations that can be optimized for busy times:
Take Account of Supplier Delays
If you regularly rely on suppliers to deliver goods for production, track what their delivery times are during busy periods. Speak to your suppliers to establish they can continue to meet demand and do so without production-halting delays
Ensure You Have Enough Stock and Inventory
One of the biggest delays to distribution is not having enough inventory. Look at all your stock levels, especially for popular products, and make sure you will have enough supply in stock to meet regular and seasonal demands. Get forward orders in with suppliers now, so you’ll always have enough product for customer needs.
Check Your Operational Logistics Areas
Look at the various parts of your operation to ensure they’re prepared for an influx of goods.
- Increase capacity in your storage areas.
- Check that your technology can meet increased demand.
- Maintain important equipment like shelving, forklifts, computers, printers, etc.
- Maintain your fleet of vehicles.
- Ensure you have enough consumables like packing materials.
Maintain a Safe Working Environment
Stop your warehouse from being a hazard by properly applying all health and safety guidelines, even during busy periods. Complete safety reviews and ensure that all staff, both temporary and permanent, are properly trained in all areas. In particular, temporary staff must be trained in proper goods and materials handling.
Track and Tweak Seasonal Variations and Operational Changes
Once you’ve optimized your workforce and operations for busy times, make sure you track exactly how logistics and distribution is performing. Establish key metrics to identify what is working and what isn’t. Make tweaks to improve the speed and quality of your logistics operation. Document any lessons learned to make future workforce planning easier.
When you need temporary workers for your logistics and distribution operations, look no further than Wonolo. Our on-demand workforce marketplace can help you fill warehouse and driver positions in less than 24 hours. Whether you’re looking for contingency workforce planning, or you want to staff your entire operation during busy times, we can help. Sign up today to see how we can help staff your business any time of year.