A business’ peak season can place a huge demand on its internal warehousing and distribution capabilities and without adequate planning and preparation can have a negative impact on its customer service levels. The below proposed steps should help you to plan internally and externally with your customers and partners to ensure that you minimise any potential service disruptions
When planning for peak season, it is helpful to collect historic and forecasted volume data as well as the expected peak season timeframe(s). This data will help you to plan out resources, required functional flows, daily volume and resource expectations. After collecting this data, it should be communicated to key stakeholders. Sample data may include:
Peak season preparation does not just mean preparing for additional data volume. It can also require special operational considerations, such as the use of specific functionalities or processes. It is important that these special flows be identified, documented and tested in advance.
Here are a few examples:
A discovery and/or design session should be held to determine if altering operational strategies might be beneficial during peak season. The current functional flow may be adequate under normal volume, but a revised strategy may be necessary to optimally handle increased volumes.
It is very common to hire temporary workers during peak times to augment the labour force. Preparations for handling these inexperienced workers include:
The fast-paced environment during peak season may require additional operations tools to manage increased workflow. Peak season dashboards and reports can be instrumental in helping to manage operations and set expectations during this time.
If peak season involves additional or extended shifts, the following items should be reviewed to ensure they are not negatively affected:
There are several hardware considerations when planning for peak season:
Changes to the system should be avoided during peak season in an effort to minimize disruptions. Therefore, a code and configuration deadline should be agreed upon and implemented. However, a process for approving and installing “hot fixes” should also be documented in order to accommodate situations in which system changes are necessary.
Synchronization of test and production runs will confirm that the latest code updates have been installed and will minimize issue research delays caused by inconsistencies.
Audits should be scheduled and conducted before each peak season. A checkpoint should be added to the peak season preparation calendar to confirm all audit recommendations are implemented by a pre-determined date.
A volume test is recommended when volume is expected to surpass the original design assumptions. It is also suggested if functionality was added after previous volume tests. Testing can be system-wide or specifically focused and should identify any operational and system bottlenecks. Volume testing should be performed after audit tuning recommendations have already been implemented.
The volume test checklist includes:
In the event that issues arise during peak season, the following tools should be installed (and staff training completed) well in advance to mitigate impact to production.
Ensure that your vendor offers different levels of customer support depending on customers’ depth of product knowledge, resource availability and degree of risk aversion.
If this is your first peak season utilizing a WMS, consider having our personnel onsite on critical days. This ensures that you have immediate access to:
If onsite support is not required, remote dedicated support is available. This provides on-call assistance from specific WMS support personnel during predetermined hours.
An issue triage and escalation plan should be developed to expedite issue research and resolution. This plan typically starts at the user level and ends with executive escalation. Contact information (home and mobile numbers) for all key personnel must be provided, including rarely contacted resources, such as DBAs, network administrators and operating system administrators. Plans can be in the form of flow-charts or spreadsheets, and should specify escalation timeframes and guidelines for determining various levels of severity.
At the conclusion of peak season, it is important to follow up on open action items as well as how critical scenarios were resolved. It is recommended that a post-peak overview meeting (that includes all stakeholders and your WMS representative) be held to review:
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