By Mary Hart
When you work in an industry like retail, the holiday season may make you feel more “Blah blah blah” instead of “Fa la la” thanks to the volume increase of orders, known as “peak”. According to a Supply Chain Dive survey, three out of five (59%) survey respondents expect their peak season to be challenging.
For warehouses and third-party logistics (3PL) providers, peak season isn’t just the holidays. Other peak times are back to school shopping over the summer, pool and garden supplies in the spring, and more.
Think back to the last peak season at your warehouse. Was it challenging, or did you have the right technologies and team in place to survive and thrive? If you want to do better for the next peak, here’s what successful warehouses and 3PLs do to handle their peak season.
Start Planning for Peak Early
For some warehouses and 3PLs, the time to start prep for peak is right after the last peak ends. Even if you didn’t do that, there’s still time for you to plan now for this year’s peak season. Steve Simmerman, Head of Global Alliances at Locus Robotics, says, “Warehouses should get a jump start on peak planning the earlier the better to avoid last-minute disruptions that could impact your ability to properly serve your customers and meet your SLAs.”
One way to do so, says Simmerman, is to take a look at your past warehouse peak seasons from an historical perspective. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- How has your peak season changed over the past few seasons?
- Have order volumes changed?
- What macro-level changes has your organization undergone prior to peak season and how do these changes affect your planning?
- Have you had significant layout changes to your distribution center or warehouse? If so, what impact will those changes have on your peak planning?
Once you have a plan in place, spread the word! Communication is key to success. Make sure that your associates, supervisors, managers, and customers (for 3PL providers and distribution centers) all understand your overall plan for peak season. This way, you’ll set expectations early in order to alleviate any concerns, which will go a long way towards helping you succeed as a team.
Hire More Workers
To succeed as a team, you may need more bodies. It makes sense that when you have more orders coming in, you need more people to fulfill those orders in a timely manner. “The best approach for peak season,” says JP Lichtenberg, Warehouse Design Engineer at Locus Robotics, “is to aim to over-staff slightly, as this will ensure you can fulfill all orders that drop in.”
Lichtenberg provides these ways to approach staffing-up for the peak season:
- Bonus incentives for full-time employees aimed at encouraging improved performance and attendance
- Daily/weekly throughput targets with bonuses, gift raffles, and free meals/snacks to encourage a team-building atmosphere
- Incentives for temps to want to sign up for a short-term role to help with spikes in business
- Simple things like “Peak 2023 team” shirts/pull-overs to further emphasize the appreciation for team members helping during the busy season
One incentive for temps or full-time employees to work at your facility could be the ability to work with robots. Our customers find that employees enjoy working with autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) like LocusBots due to the cool technology and less worker fatigue. For associates that work with LocusBots, the bots do the majority of the walking, so associates don’t have to walk up to 12 to 14 miles a day in the warehouse.
Reduce Training Time
As you bring on temp associates for peak, they will need to be trained. But training isn’t just for new associates. Warehouse managers should assess how many people on the team have been through peak before. Simmerman notes, “Pay particular attention to those new people in your organization that have not been through peak before and take the time to educate and train them.”
Training is necessary to ensure processes are followed, but it can take away from valuable, productive picking time with training requiring a week or more. Companies that have brought on autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) like Locus Origin, have seen a reduction in training time from over a week to just minutes.
One customer stated that, with Locus Robotics, “we have seen a reduction in training time by 80%. This is especially helpful for peak season, when we can train our warehouse associates faster and make sure they’re productive faster.”
Another customer noted that “during peak seasons, when we’re bringing in a lot of associates, we can train them a lot faster with the Locus solution. So we don’t have to bring them in and have them sit in a classroom and then come out onto the warehouse floor and have them take forever to learn. Instead, the new associates can just walk around with somebody, pick it up, and they see the robots. The user interface is technology they’ve used before, and they catch on very quickly.”
Improve Your Worker Productivity
When you bring on AMRs, you double the productivity of your associates year-round and during peak seasons. How? One customer noted, “LocusBots double and almost triple our worker productivity. An employee might be typically able to handle 100 orders an hour using traditional picking methods. But when that employee works with LocusBots, they’re able to do 200 to 250 orders an hour.”
Add More LocusBots to Your Fleet
If you already have a fleet of LocusBots at your facility, you can easily add additional bots during peak season with the Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) model. One of our customers said that adding additional bots during peak time or when new customers have come on has been very straightforward. They stated, “when the bots are delivered, Locus Robotics has preconfigured them to the account they’re working with, or if it’s a multi-account pool, to the pool of bots. Once they’re here, the bots just go into the flow on their own. There is very little, if any, bot-level configuration required on site. We’ve been pleasantly surprised how quickly we can get additional bots deployed when we have unexpected spikes in our ecommerce business.”
If you don’t already have a fleet of LocusBots at your facility, there’s no time like the present. LocusBots assisted with 230+ million units picked during the recent holiday peak season (see infographic at right), with a daily average of 3.3 million picked in 2022. Our customers are hitting their numbers and SLAs, increasing warehouse associate productivity, and improving their order accuracy by bringing the Locus Solution on board.
Locus Robotics can help your warehouse, distribution center, or 3PL make this peak season one for the record books by reducing training time, doubling worker productivity, attracting temporary associates, and getting your plan set early. Want to find out how you can have your best peak season yet with AMRs?
Talk to us and we’ll tell you more!