Many businesses - and their Warehouse Managers - have an idea of what Santa goes through every year. You see, Santa has a high volume of deliveries that all need to happen within a very short time. He has a lot of ground to cover, and customers who won't be happy if their deliveries don't arrive on time. Santa seems to pull out a bit of magic. But is it magic? Or is it a case of sound business processes and effective inventory management strategies that help him turn the impossible into possible?
Here are some of the strategies and tactics that are on Santa's secret list for managing inventory effectively at this time of year. Read on to learn how to improve warehouse performance, reduce wastage, and increase stock turn.
Stock demand insights
You can bet that Santa has a fair idea of how much stock he needs at Christmas time. After all, he receives a tonne of letters that provide a good indication of what’s popular and what’s not as popular.
Businesses may not receive letters regarding a few of their customers’ favourite things but they have another good indication od demand for different stock lines. Sales history. By looking back over previous sales history, you can gain a picture of the demand fluctuations for various items - and when those fluctuations are happening.
But what if your products have changed throughout your reporting period? Classification of products with categories and subcategories can help to identify the product lines that have increased or decreased in demand. Rather than only measuring the individual items, categories give you a broader view based on the item type.
When you relate demand fluctuation data back to marketing promotions, the geographic areas of your customers and other factors such as seasonal influences, you'll gain a clear picture of what’s caused those fluctuations. For this type of reporting, having a central source of data across the business helps bring it all together very efficiently. Having an ERP system in place that handles your inventory management, sales, marketing and CRM data all in the one system makes this reporting a reality.
"When you relate demand fluctuation data back to your marketing promotions, geographic areas of your customers and other factors such as seasonal influences you'll see a clearer picture of what’s caused those fluctuations."
When the Christmas rush is at its peak, your inventory situation can change in two shakes of a reindeer’s tail. Seeing your stock position and warehouse performance at a glance gives you the power to make agile decisions and stop potential stock-outs from happening.
If possible, make sure your inventory management software is set up with the right KPI meters, saved searches and indicators on one, central dashboard view. Having the critical information you need on one screen puts you in the best position to prevent issues. If you don’t have a cloud-based solution that feeds you up-to-the-minute data and delivers it right to a consolidated dashboard, it may be something to put on your Christmas list.
Santa relies on his elves the same way you rely on warehouse staff. They're crucial to warehouse operations and keep stock coming in and going out. So, how can you help your elves - I mean warehouse staff - work smarter?
The more efficient your warehouse setup, the more stock you can turn over and the more sales orders you can fulfil. Are your most popular products located at the back of the warehouse? If so, staff could be walking the whole length of the warehouse every time they pick those popular items. Moving the high-demand products closer to where the pick, pack, ship process is completed can save a whole lot of time. Grouping similar items can also help pickers work more intuitively, knowing where to look for similar products that need to be picked. This can be especially helpful for additional overflow staff hired to cover the Christmas period.
"Are your most popular products located at the back of the warehouse? Moving the high-demand products closer where the pick, pack, ship process is completed can save a whole lot of time."
Having the right automation in place can be like having your own, personal army of elves running things behind the scenes. Find out if your inventory management system can automate stock re-ordering with minimum and maximum levels in place, trigger reminders, and send alerts.
Automating personalised order dispatch notifications can also give customers an even better experience and reduce calls coming into your customer service team.
Cutting down staff’s repetitive, manual tasks can free up a lot of time in the long-run. And that leaves them free to get more stock out, help more customers, and focus on more profitable activities.
‘Tis the season to use scanning solutions
Santa may be getting on in years, but he’s no stranger to the benefits of technology. He knows the efficiency that RFID barcode scanners can bring to a warehouse. Instead of having pickers walk back to a central desktop or laptop to get their next picking slip or to receipt more orders, a wireless scanning solution delivers updated information directly to handheld barcode scanners.
Wireless scanners help warehouse staff to more efficiently manage purchasing and receiving, stock barcode scanning, bin put-aways and the full pick, pack, ship process - all right from the one handheld device.
"Instead of having pickers walk back to a central desktop or laptop to get their next picking slip or to receipt more orders, a wireless scanning solution delivers updated information directly to handheld barcode scanners."
Get prepared for post-Christmas activities
Setting up and automating reports to keep track of product sales keeps you one step ahead over the busy Christmas period. But it’s also important for knowing what’s left over after the Christmas rush. Dashboards that give you real-time stock information can help monitor any excess product and flag when you need to adjust purchasing quickly.
By using single-source cloud ERP system, sales and marketing can access the same information on stock levels as you see on your warehouse management dashboard. It becomes easy to identify opportunities for post-Christmas campaigns and offers which can be put in place to run out excess inventory swiftly. For sales and marketing, it can be invaluable to know which products to target. For the warehouse, running out those items can reduce stock obsolescence and wastage, increasing the overall warehouse profitability.
Having the right tools
Christmas can be a stressful time – even for Santa. But he’s lucky enough to have an army of elves and a little magic on his side. For the rest of us, having the right tools to increase operational efficiency and maximise warehouse performance can be the best Christmas gift for which any business or its warehouse manager could wish.
Knowing your stock demand in advance, and having real-time visibility of your stock position can keep your inventory management in top shape over the Christmas period. Using automation, reviewing your physical warehouse setup and employing smart technology like barcode scanning devices can also take the load of warehouse staff and boost efficiency. Getting the right reporting to maximise the post-Christmas period and run out excess stock also ensures product wastage is reduced and warehouse profitability is optimised.
If you’re missing some of the tools needed to make the most of the Christmas rush period, get in touch to find out more about a cloud-based business management software solution that should be at the top of your Christmas list.
Also, get your free eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Inventory Management, for even more ideas on warehouse optimisation.