By Stephanie Vozza
Every business has a busy season, where customers and sales come in waves. That means a busy time fulfilling shipments, too. With the rise of online shopping, customer expectations for on-time, hassle-free shipments are sky-high, and it's more important than ever that your business meet those requirements.
Some smart planning and preparation can help you keep up during the rush. Here are five steps to take now, so you can handle the demand when it hits.
1. Plan Early – Very Early
If peak holiday season is your biggest time for shipments — as it is for many companies — it's never too early to start preparing. In fact, prepping for the season should nearly be a year-round endeavor, according to Material Handling & Logistics, with businesses preparing for the rush as early as February.
However, smaller demand peaks may not be so obvious, so review previous sales information to note other typical spikes in your demand. Give yourself several weeks in advance of these times to make preparations before those busy moments hit.
2. Stock Up on Supplies
The last thing you want to do during a busy cycle is slow down shipments so you can replenish depleted shipping supplies. Make sure you have plenty of shipping materials on hand, such as boxes, padded envelopes, labels, bubble wrap, packing peanuts and tape. Get an idea of how much you need by looking at how many shipments you sent last year, then increase the amount slightly to anticipate an increase in sales.
3. Preassemble Boxes and Orders
If you have the room, assemble boxes ahead of time to help streamline your shipping process. Having boxes built and ready to be filled can save you and your team a few minutes packing each order, which adds up during a rush. If your sales spike revolves around a popular item, you can also prepack orders that will simply need an invoice and shipping label. Make sure you can easily identify what's inside the box to avoid wasting precious minutes double-checking the contents.
4. Organize Your Shipping Station
Take a tip from the automotive industry and organize your shipping services tools like an assembly line. Follow the flow of picking and packing by storing boxes, packaging materials and tape in the area where they're used. Make sure you have a scale for weighing items and a tracking system that keeps the correct order with the matching items.
5. Hire Part-Time Help
Finally, an increase in sales also means an increase in workload. It can help to advocate for hiring temporary workers who can keep shipments going out on time. Not all budgets allow for this, but make the case that a slip in productivity during your busy season could be more costly to your bottom line than paying for a temp. If your busy season is during the holidays, know that temporary workers are at a premium; it's best to put seasonal workers in place early to avoid being understaffed.
Timely shipping is part of your customer experience. Take the time to set up your shipping services, so you can turn a great experience into repeat business.