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The planning challenge

08 October 2018

The challenge for retailers around peak times is to respond effectively to the required increase in capacity, while still maintaining service-promise and keeping costs in check, says Dean Wyatt, divisional VP, fashion & beauty, DHL Supply Chain.

Bringing in last-minute temporary resource to support dramatic increases in activity can be expensive and risky. However, a successful peak requires performance reflection, planning, and an agile and positive mind-set. Retailers need to start planning for peak periods as soon as the last one has finished, developing a flexible labour and resource plan well in advance. Build on what worked well, learn from what didn’t and identify key areas for improvement to inform the strategy for next time.

Collaboration is also essential to an effective peak strategy. A joint plan, consistently revisited throughout the year between the retailer and its 3PL, will ensure the full product cycle is taken into account, rather than just what happens in the warehouse. By identifying which products are going to be most popular and how consumers are most likely to shop for them, the logistics provider can make sure they are easily accessible and even pre-pick and pre-package them. Planning ahead also allows time to train staff well in advance, ensuring they are prepared and motivated to work at full capacity during these times. 

Investment in new technologies that speed up the movement of product will also bring benefits. Automated packaging will significantly boost the flow of product and allow teams to use their time more effectively. Retailers should consider which technologies are worth investing in, and how they can support employees to work smarter. At DHL, we have also invested in our Certified Supply Chain Specialist programme with our colleagues to foster a passionate, can-do attitude to get things right first time for our customers - crucial all year round but especially during times of increased pressure and demand. 

The extension of peak times to include events such as Black Friday has brought new opportunities and challenges to retailers during the hugely important Christmas run-up. By adapting their approach to cater for two peaks in activity, using past learnings to inform future strategies and ensuring planning is revisited regularly throughout the year, retailers will set themselves apart from their competitors.