The peak season for warehouses in the US and in Europe typically begins around October and ends in January. Consumers order products for the holiday season during this period and warehouses are flooded with orders. In 2021, DHL Supply Chain processed three million orders, with more than 11 million items shipped during the seven-day time period between November 26 (Black Friday) and December 3. Peak day demand during that week was nearly 14 times higher than an average day.
This year, peak season promises to be even more strenuous, thanks to the massive growth in eCommerce, especially during Covid-19. Understanding the peak season challenges for warehousing and logistics enables you to prepare for your busiest time.
Warehouses have a difficult challenge in front of them. As they scramble to fill all the orders, they must avoid a hiring boost that will leave them with more workers than they need or can support when peak season is over.
Read on to learn about the five peak season challenges warehouses are expected to face during the upcoming season. We will also give you strategies and solutions for overcoming peak season challenges, getting more labor, and improving warehouse efficiency:
1. Having Too Few Workers
During peak season, more inventory will come in and go out than during the rest of the year. Therefore, you will almost certainly be left without enough workers. Finding workers this year may be even harder. 7.6% of the 11.4 million open jobs in the US as of April 2022 were in warehousing, transportation, and utilities. You probably don’t want to increase the number of permanent workers you have. If you do, you’ll be left with too many workers when peak season is over. In 2022, getting enough workers can be even harder, since unemployment is lower than it’s been for 50 years.
A good solution is to hire temporary workers. This can be particularly good for general warehouse workers and picker packers. You can also look for workers in innovative places.
Solution: Hiring Temporary Workers Who Don’t Speak the Same Language as You
Workers who don’t speak the language of your warehouse can be a great solution. They may be willing to work for briefer periods. After all, they may be traveling or struggling to find work at all.
Will you be hiring people who don’t speak the same language as most of your workers or your managers? Good, thorough training will be imperative. how.fm can enable you to onboard and train workers in over 30 languages. This eliminates many of the challenges that come with hiring workers who don’t speak the same language as the people on the floor.
2. A Lack of Skilled Labor
Inexperienced or unskilled warehouse workers can do a lot of work. However, one of the most difficult peak season challenges warehouses have to overcome is filling roles that require more skill or knowledge on a temporary basis. With more inventory moving through your warehouse, you’ll probably need more forklift operators, truck drivers, and other specialized labor.
Solution: Train the Workers You Have or Incentivise Skilled Workers
There are a couple of things you can do to increase the skilled labor you have access to. You can train existing workers in skilled jobs, effectively giving them a promotion. This is a great way to keep your loyal workers. Even as the peak season crunch makes work harder for them, they’ll be motivated to stay. It’s also a good way to feel confident about the workers you have in high-risk jobs. When it comes to jobs like forklift operators, you want workers you know and trust.
What if you don’t have people you can train for skilled labor? Another option is to offer a temporary incentive for skilled workers during the peak season. Workers will be happy to make more than they can typically make. You won’t mind paying extra since there’s more money coming in during the peak season.
3. Worker Burnout
No matter what you do to mitigate the stress of overcoming peak season labor challenges, the fact remains that this is a challenging time for everybody in the workhouse. It’s not unusual for warehouse managers to find themselves running machinery or filling orders themselves because they are so short-staffed.
Solution: Watch for Burnout and Check In With Employees
Improving warehouse efficiency can be overwhelming for staff, who may push themselves too hard, making mistakes and injuries more likely. It’s important for warehouse managers and workers to keep an eye out for burnout at any time. During peak season, watching for worker burnout becomes even more essential. Fulfilling SLAs is important, but it’s not so important that it should hurt or stress workers or managers.
It’s important for managers to regularly check in with one another and with their workers to see if burnout is occurring. While it can be tempting to approve all of the overtime workers are willing to do during peak season, it’s important to talk with workers and ensure that overtime isn’t resulting in burnout.
4. Equipment Breakdown or Malfunction
When it comes to warehouses, it sometimes feels that equipment waits to break down at the time when it is most needed. In fact, this may not be a coincidence.
Solution: Keep Pieces on Hand, Use Sign-Out Procedures to Maintain Equipment and Order New Equipment Promptly
During peak season, workers tend to run equipment more often with less care than usual. Overworked employees may not pay attention to equipment as well as they normally do.
If equipment is going to break down, there’s a good chance that it will happen during peak season. It’s hard enough overcoming peak season labor challenges on a good day, not to mention if a critical piece of equipment breaks down. Here are a few things to do to prepare yourself for the inevitable time when something goes wrong with equipment:
- Keep key pieces on hand. If you know of any equipment parts that have a tendency to break, it’s a good idea to have extras. Getting parts can be a challenge in 2022, and you don’t want to wait weeks or even months for a key part or buy an entire piece of equipment just because a small part is broken.
- Put into place sign-out procedures for equipment maintenance. It can be easy for employees to forget about equipment maintenance during their busy day fulfilling SLAs, so it’s wise for managers to put into place a procedure for essential equipment maintenance. When employees have to physically check off something to show that they’re caring for the equipment, they’re more likely to follow procedures.
- Order new equipment at the first sign of trouble. This is not the time to keep working with a failing piece of equipment until it is completely useless. During peak season, it’s wise to order new equipment at the first sign that it may be ready to break. It may be a good idea to order new equipment even if what you have is getting old. This is especially true if you have some room to store extra equipment.
5. Worker Sickness
Covid 19 is still a serious issue for warehouses in 2022. It remains to be seen whether cooler weather as peak season takes off in October will cause a spike in Covid 19, especially in northern states.
Most warehouses have a hard time putting social distancing into place, and enforcing mask-wearing can be a challenge as well. Workers may be more prone to come to work sick when they know that it’s busy. Managers may encourage workers to keep working even if they’re sick if they’re having a hard time finding enough people to keep on the floor.
All of these elements can lead to a situation in which workers are likely to come to work sick, fail to maintain proper Covid-19 safety like masks and social distance, and the spread of Covid through the warehouse becomes increasingly likely. If you have a disease outbreak at your warehouse, you may need to work with even fewer employees or suspend work entirely.
Needless to say, keeping workers from getting sick at your warehouse is one of the peak season challenges for warehousing and logistics in 2022. Be very strict with workers and managers that workers should not come in if they’re sick.
Make sure that workers aren’t penalized by having to use up unpaid days or sick days, since they may be more tempted to come in even when they’re sick if they feel like they need to. Enforce strict mask rules both on the floor and in common areas at your warehouse. Do all you can to create social distancing as much as possible. Instituting testing isn’t a bad idea either, especially if workers show symptoms.
How to Prepare for Peak Season Challenges for Warehousing and Logistics in 2022
1. Manage the Warehouse Layout
If your warehouse isn’t laid efficiently before peak season, improving warehouse efficiency should be one of your primary priorities before peak season begins. This is especially important if you have lots of new workers starting who may not know how your warehouse functions.
Here are a few things to look over about your warehouse to make sure the layout is as efficient as possible
- Ensure that the inventory receiving area is clear and well-marked to speed up the picking process
- Keep high demand items where they’re easily accessible
- Reduce repetitive motion, climbing ladders, and other potentially risky behaviors for employees wherever possible
2. Train Your Employees
Peak season is not a good time to be explaining the basics of how your warehouse functions to new employees. Train your employees ahead of time so that they’ll be ready when the orders start flying in.
This is especially true since it’s so likely that you’ll have lots of new employees, some of which may not have worked in a warehouse before. Don’t expect one training session to do the job. Equip your workers with how.fm so that they can constantly reference training material as needed.
3. Emphasize Safety
Injuries are one of the most significant peak season challenges for warehousing and logistics. There are a lot of reasons why injuries are more likely to occur during peak season than at other times of the year. While a few accidents or repetitive motion injuries are bound to happen, following a thorough safety checklist can help to prevent a lot of the issues that are common during peak season in a warehouse. Safety training for warehouse workers is critical to ensure that workers follow safety protocols to prevent injuries.
It’s also essential to do a good walkthrough of your warehouse and make sure that as many risks as possible have been mitigated. While good management throughout the peak season is essential for ongoing safety, safety training and preparation before peak season make management as effective as possible.
4. Double-Check Your Truck Routes and Inventory Transport
With gas at an all-time high in both the US and Europe, you can’t afford to waste a drop moving inventory from manufacturing centers, to your warehouse, and on to consumers. Think about every possible aspect of truck routes to ensure that you’re not wasting money on gas.
You also can’t overlook how you’re packing the trucks. If you’re sending a half empty truck to meet a shipping demand, you may consider loading it up the rest of the way with frequently ordered inventory even if your orders haven’t come in yet. After all, it’s challenging to get deliveries for the holiday season in 2022, so it’s best to stock up if you can.
Get Help Overcoming Peak Season Challenges for Warehousing and Logistics
Good training is a critical component of improving warehouse efficiency and helping your warehouse to overcome peak season challenges for warehousing and logistics. how.fm provides training that is accessible whenever workers need it, in whatever language they speak.
This is an effective way to train temporary employees and get them on the floor faster. It’s also great for training and upskilling some of your current trusted workers in more advanced roles. The right training can make your warehouse safer, more streamlined, and more efficient. Learn what how.fm can do to help you make the most of the 2022 peak season.
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