Well here we are, approaching a time of year that could provide a much-needed, small modicum of normalcy, directed by the calendar and engrained in who we are as a country, the holiday season is fast approaching. But as much as we want everything to be normal again, we know that simply will not be the case, at least not this year. 

Maybe more than any other time I can remember the focus on holiday distribution and shipping will be more important than ever, with families spending more time at home cooking and making meals together, creating added demand on warehouse food product storage for the holidays.

Warehouse Storage for Holiday Food Product

As a warehouse, the number one focus leading up to the holiday season is the inbound of the customers’ products to fulfill all of those orders that will be heading your way. Focus by the warehouse staff on absolute accuracy during the receiving process is, and should be priority #1. If we do not receive it correctly, it creates the domino effect from there and not the fun kind. 

Blurred workers moving in a stocked warehouse

Second, is the accuracy in which we put away and store our food product for the holidays. One of the worst things you can hear from your staff when they start the fulfillment of a holiday order is, “It is not where it shows in the Warehouse Management Software (WMS)”, this creates a stop in the process, and consumes un-expected time loss on the order and possible delay to the customer’s order going out, obviously opposite of all expectations, especially during the holidays. These steps when performed accurately will lead you and your team to success during the next stages of the distribution and shipping of holiday food products. 

Warehouse Order Fulfillment During the Holiday

Success! The warehouse staff received our holiday food product and put everything away to perfection, we never really doubted them now did we? Now we turn our focus to the fulfillment process. This time of year is always busy, and throw 2020 in the mix, we expect it to be busy, say plus 20% on this side of the warehouse. Focus on staffing will be a key piece to success, with the added workload and maximizing of warehouse floor space due to the buildup for the upcoming surge of orders, let’s assume our labor needs will be at 30% above normal. This assumption needs to be considered well in advance to ensure the new staff has been adequately trained and vetted to confirm that they are ready to go when the time comes and they are the right fit for this work.

As a warehouse, it is critical to accurately handle food products for holiday fulfillment, not just for our customer and their customers, but even more important, it is critical to the health and safety of the nation. Maintaining FIFO (first in first out) and accurate “lot control” is critical for the health and safety of those persons that will eventually consume the product we are storing and shipping. 

If we handled our receiving and put-away process correctly the fulfillment of holiday orders will be easier. When it comes to the picking process, emphasizing strict use of hand-held scanners and working within the WMS is critical. No matter how busy the warehouse gets, they must stay within the system and utilize the technology within the WMS, if we do this, the system will help limit the majority of errant picks along the way and help ensure we maintain accurate FIFO and lot control for each order. Once the fulfillment of the holiday order is complete it will move to the next step, quality check.

Man with a hairnet writing on a clipboard standing about a distribution center

Quality check (QC) must be done to every order by someone other than the picker. This second check is a critical step in certifying the order has been picked correctly and is accurate. During busy times this can seem cumbersome, however, this step is one that helps the warehouse move forward with confidence that the order is accurate and ready to be prepped for shipping. Too many times during a rush or busy seasons shortcuts are taken, do not let it happen here, the time spent QC’ing will be much less than the time spent undoing a miss-pick/miss-shipment, which is not a matter of if it happens, but more of a matter of when that happens.

Holiday eCommerce Fulfillment

The process of eCommerce fulfillment and picking is in a lot of ways very similar to that of the fulfillment of large orders described above, but there is one very big and glaring difference; labor and processing equipment needs. Ecommerce fulfillment has a lot more touches. It may take a warehouseman to pick and pack 1,000 items packed into 20 cases, for a retail customer a total of one-man hour. The same total items shipped through eCommerce will take considerably longer. If we assume each eCommerce order has 5 items per order, that is 200 separate orders the warehouse will process, and well you get the idea, many more man-hours. 

These considerations require the warehouse to either: 

A). Bring in a lot more staffing or 

B). Add flow racking, conveyor, automated technology, and other material handling equipment to reduce the labor burden. 

Unless you are Amazon, the most common method is something in-between A & B. When eCommerce is a year-round work requirement then using method B as the primary will pay off in the long run, if the warehouse only sees these types of increases during the holiday order fulfillment times, method A will be the best option. 

In either case, these considerations need to be determined well in advance, you do not want to try and work through this during the actual rush, it will be whatever the opposite of fun for you is.

It is very important to discuss the upcoming holiday season with your customer to understand their forecasts during this time, and laying out a plan based on the forecasts, past experiences (if this is a long-time customer), and through a mutual partnership that will lead to success for both parties.

Holiday Distribution and Shipping

We have made it to the final step, prepping the order for shipping. This step should not be taken lightly, although the hard work is behind us, all of that effort will be for nothing if we do not get the shipment sent out correctly. At this stage, the warehouse will prep the shipment whether that be shrink wrapping, banding, or special ship needs. This is the third and final opportunity to check that the order is complete, accurate, and ready to travel to its intended destination, intact and complete. 

After all, isn’t that what we were hired to do?

Prepare For Holiday Shipping With Bridgetown

Here at Bridgetown Trucking we know how busy the holidays are and our locations in Portland, and St. Louis are eager to help keep your business on track. With our warehouse best practices we are able to to ensure your goods get to their destination accurately and efficiently. Reach out to us today so you can spend more time with your family this holiday season, and less time worrying about getting your inventory from point A to point B!