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Lessons for the Holiday Season

December 12, 2013


Although improvements to your material handling processes are usually done during the slow season, you can learn a lot from the busy holiday months. If you can stay focused during these chaotic months, you will discover a lot of advice hidden within the disorder. Here are just a few things that the holiday season can help determine about the efficiency of your material handling facility.

What are your pick rates and pick accuracy? Determining pick rates is typically done to decide on whether an automated system would increase efficiency. Pick rates are subject to how busy it is, because efficiency may decrease as it gets busier, so the best time to test this is during the busiest time of the year. This way, you can capture the pick rate at maximum capacity, and you are able to benchmark it against the same period the following year.

Pick accuracy is also very important and testing this during a slow season might not yield accurate results. This is because employees that are not pressed for time and working at full capacity are less likely to make mistakes than employees that are. Determining pick accuracy during the busy season will essentially give you a worst-case scenario to compare to the next busy season.

What is your required storage capacity? The busy holiday season is also a great time to see what you can handle for inventory in-house. When inventory exceeds the storage space, inefficient processes occur, such as storing pallets where they do not belong. This means that they will end up taking up valuable floor space that will negatively affect the product flow efficiency throughout the warehouse.

One way to prevent this would be taking advantage of your vertical storage area. A factor that most warehouse facilities have in common are high ceilings, and in many cases the vertical space is not being utilized. Mezzanines, pallet racking, and shelving are all solutions to expanding your storage options.

What are the weak or slow points of your material handling process? The slowest part of a process will represent the overall efficiency of the entire process, so it important to pay close attention to these inefficient portions. Think of it as sand going through a series of different sized funnels. The slowest speed will be the rate at which it passes through the smallest funnel. Increasing the size of this funnel alone will increase the overall speed of the sand.

Most importantly, what do your customers think? Because the customer is always right, you have to take their feedback seriously, especially in the busy season. Your performance in your busiest season is when customers’ demand is at its highest, so make sure you collect feedback from them. This can be done in several ways including online surveys, or a simple call or email after the sale is complete to determine if you met their needs in a professional and timely fashion.

Answering these questions will require a little more analysis and work on your part but will pay off big if done correctly. Every year an analysis like this will require less and less work, and your facility will be running that much more efficiently. Do not be overwhelmed by all of these currently unanswered questions. American Surplus will gladly talk you through the process, and we will recommend any changes we find appropriate. We also have unbeatable prices on used material handling equipment, a lot of which comes with a 30 day ASI guarantee, so you can buy from us with confidence.