Reaching the peak

ukwidesurveychallengesJon Hall, group operations manager, TouchStar Technologies, advises on coping at times of peak trading…

Time flies in the logistics industry. Even though we have barely drawn breath after a bumper Christmas period, we are well into the thick of the challenges of 2015 and no doubt under pressure to introduce change just to keep up with customer demand let alone the competition.

The good news is that there is no better time to implement change than the present. In fact, there’s plenty of time to prepare for one of this year’s major events – the Rugby World Cup. As we saw with the Football World Cup in Brazil last year the demand on all sorts of industries, from food and drink to electrical products, can cause the unprepared plenty of headaches.

To avoid the stress, it’s always best to consider how you will cope with these times of peak trading. The nature of business, technology available and in-house skills will all play a part in defining this. But there will always be warehouses that can meet the demand because they have been able to invest in new hardware and software, training and resources, those that would like to invest but get caught out by the scale of what is about to be asked of them and defer improvements until after the event, and those that just get though it by doing whatever it takes to meet SLAs.

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If you’re likely to fall into the ‘delay improvements’ and ‘just in time’ camps, it’s understandable if it’s difficult to allocate time to review how you performed during a time of peak trading. So the best way can often be to break it down into manageable chunks.

– Draw up a top ten ‘troubles’ list

What will keep you awake at night if you don’t fix repeated errors? By focusing on ten you’ll be able to see the wood for the trees, and you may find by solving one you’ll solve five others.

– How you will fix those ten

What skills do you have available and where’s the gap? What physical capacity do you have and if you did things differently how could it increase?

– What role does technology play in your organisation?

What role could it play? If money were no object how would you design your infrastructure?

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– Build a plan

Use your research to work backwards and identify the skills, resources and technology that would help you troubleshoot the things that always trip you up and at the same time implement new ways of working that would bring long-term productivity gains.

– Be realistic

Prioritise according to the elements that will make a real difference during the next peak trading cycle and perform the necessary cost analysis. Which will be quick wins?

This may still appear to be an arduous task, so my advice would be to find someone who has been through it before. Glean all you can from specialist suppliers too – they know what works best when undergoing change. Testing your plan can be invaluable. It gives credence to the strategy when you take it to the board and it will give you the boost that you are doing the right thing from the start.

So why not set yourself the challenge to take just one day to appraise your operation’s performance? It might be the most valuable day you have.

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