By Mary Hart
I know you’re in the thick of peak season at your warehouse now, or shortly will be with Black Friday approaching. But before you know it, this peak season will be over and it will be time to handle returns, clean up your warehouse and optimize warehouse operations, all while keeping your associates busy and engaged.
Is this peak season shaping up to be a tough one with your current manual processes? Post-peak season is the perfect time to learn how warehouse automation can help you smooth out warehouse operations before the next rush.
Ride the Wave of Returns
Even when order volumes drop in your warehouse post-peak, you do still have orders coming in along with returns that all need to be managed efficiently. Once peak season ends, those returns are going to start streaming in as your customers send back unwanted gifts (how could you have known Grandma Sally was going to have hip surgery when you bought her that exercise bike she’d always wanted?) or incorrect orders. Instead of the hustle and bustle of peak season, your warehouse is now in the thick of the reverse logistics peak season.
As they come in, returns need to be quickly inspected, sorted, restocked, and repackaged for resale. This is a labor-intensive process that could lead to errors, and human associates are needed to do the visual inspection and sorting the returns to see what’s going back into inventory; what needs to be trashed; and what needs to be further processed
Automation technologies can help with returns, especially with the tedious transport tasks and bringing returned items to associates for putaway. This frees up their human coworkers for tasks that require a human brain like quality checks and decision making on the sale potential of the returned items.
For example, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) like LocusBots can quickly traverse the aisles to transport returned items. Instead of human associates having to push manual carts that are laden with 200-400 pounds of product, the AMRs take on the point-to-point transport.
With LocusBots handling the heavy lifting, your human associates can stay in one place and focus on high-value tasks. The human-robot collaboration leads to returns being processed faster and more accurately, turning reverse logistics from a cost center into a competitive advantage.
Improve Picking Density
During peak season, inventory levels rise and your bins are fully stocked to meet customer demand. Once peak ends, for the products that didn’t sell out, you’re left with excess stock taking up valuable space in your warehouse. What to do, besides having a blow-out sale to sell off that extra inventory? Consolidate your inventory storage to improve the picking density in your warehouse.
Once your inventory team has analyzed the data; looked at any upcoming sales or specials; and ascertained the products that you may send out in the next weeks or months, you can use automation like AMRs in your warehouse to transport overages or slower-selling inventory into storage zones in less trafficked sections of your warehouse, freeing up main pick locations for faster-moving products. This process improves productivity by having the most-often picked products in easily accessible locations, while optimizing your warehouse layout for more efficiency in order fulfillment.
Streamline Workflows with AI
When order volumes decrease post-peak, it’s the perfect time to streamline workflows and better position your warehouse with help from your automation technology.
With Locus Robotics, our LocusOne software includes LocusView, which is a dashboard and reporting feature designed to deliver AI data-driven, actionable insights across more than two dozen insightful reports and real-time dashboards, including labor guidance, predictive insights for work completion, operational comparisons against targets or time periods, order pool tracking and guidance, mission analysis and optimization, key performance visualization, and more.
As an example of streamlining workflows with AI, you can use traffic heat maps to identify and eliminate bottlenecks in your warehouse’s picking paths or putaway processes.
Your robots work seamlessly alongside warehouse workers and systems to create an agile and productive warehouse operation. Continual process refinement based on data analytics means you’ll be ready to ramp up quickly when seasonal peaks return.
During the post-peak season, which can have some slower moments, focus on cross-training and upskilling your associates for new, higher roles within your warehouse that utilize their human brains and skills.
As you’re training associates, review peak season performance with them to highlight areas for improvement, and listen to your associates, who may have ideas on ways to make your next peak season even better.
This focus on training your human associates and retraining any that need a refresh on working with AMRs (although it takes just minutes to learn how to work with LocusBots) will pay off for you when peak season hits again. An invested workforce with high associate retention is crucial for warehouse success.
Invest in Peak and Post-Peak Success
The post-peak period in your warehouse doesn’t mean orders stop and everyone can take a break. Instead, it’s a time for analysis and refreshing your warehouse operations. By leveraging the power of warehouse automation and AI, like our LocusBots and LocusOne software along with investing in your workforce, you can set the stage for a leaner, more efficient operation in your warehouse. This proactive approach towards managing returns, optimizing picking density, and streamlining workflows ensures your warehouse remains competitive and ready for the next seasonal peak surge.
Whether you’re streamlining returns, enhancing workflows, or fostering employee growth, remember that peak and post-peak success is found when you have humans and robots working together.
Ready to make this post-peak season your best one yet by turning away from manual processes to embrace warehouse automation? Let’s talk!