Modern Retail

6 ways to improve operational efficiency to cope with increased demand

Undoubtedly, lockdown was going to have a serious effect on physical retail stores, as all non-essential shops were forced to close their doors towards the end of March. Ecommerce was inevitably going to grow as a result, and it did, with it accounting for 30.7% of all retail in April 2020, up from 22.4% in March 2020, and 19.1% in April 2019.

So, now more than ever, getting your despatch space organised and using your time effectively are both crucial to staying on top of orders and coping with the increased demand your ecommerce operation is currently experiencing. I’ve compiled six top tips which we’ve seen revolutionise pick and pack processes of all sizes and scales; a lot of operations overlook them, but they’re simple and straightforward to implement, and most importantly, they work, so you’ll experience the results instantly.

Tip 1: Ensure your warehouse layout works for you

The best place to start is making sure you’re organised and prepared. Warehouses or stockrooms easily become dumping grounds, a space where you put stock wherever it fits and hope that it doesn’t fall down. However, the importance of creating a proper home for each SKU cannot be stressed enough; making it quick and easy to find products so you can put more time into fulfilling orders instead of struggling to locate wherever you put the item you need. Something as simple as ensuring your bestsellers are kept closest to your packing space will save precious minutes on each order you’re processing, making a noticeable difference on your day to day despatch.

Tip 2: Set up your packing bench so essentials are within arms reach

Making sure you’ve got everything you need to pack your products (and in good supply) on your packing bench is key to the success of speedy despatch. If you use any rolled void fill, you can get a roll holder mounted onto your packing bench which not only will help make packing easier, but will reduce storage requirements elsewhere in your packing space. Keeping your printer on, or close to, your packing bench will allow you to print order information and the correct label for the items you’re packing as you’re packing them so it’s easier to keep track of where you’re up to and what you’re doing with each order you’re processing.

Tip 3: Combine the despatch note with the address label

Miss-picks happen in any despatch operation, we’re human. But, if you’re finding that they’re an increasing problem in your business, you need a solution, and fast. Something as simple as integrated labels could be the answer; combining the despatch note with the customer address label so you can pick and pack with peace of mind that the right products are going to the right person. Remember that each miss-pick you need to resolve is the equivalent work of processing another order, so making this swap would eliminate the chance of this even happening in the first place, meaning there’s more time to focus on your other orders.

Tip 4: Pick the perfect packaging

Your choice of packaging can really make or break your despatch operation. If you use cardboard packing boxes to send your goods, Instant Bottom Boxes are an alternative which are 400% faster to assemble, pack, and seal. This change alone would allow you to process 4 times as many orders as you do with standard packing boxes – and once you try pop-up boxes, you won’t be able to go back. If you’re using packing tape to secure orders, you need a tape dispenser. From the simple handheld device for standard packing tapes, through to an electronic gummed paper tape machine which dispenses the exact amount of eco-friendly paper tape needed for the size box you have, it’s safe to say there’s a few options on the market now – all of which offer considerable savings in terms of time, money, and wastage.

Tip 5: Minimise downtime

One of the worst things to happen when you’re exceptionally busy is running out of an essential. Making sure you have adequate stock to fulfil orders, without overfilling the space you have is a careful balance that needs to be considered carefully. During busy periods, opt for longer rolls of packing tape as they won’t take up a lot more storage space, but will stop you running out as frequently. Keep a close eye on your stock levels, and order just in advance in case of courier delays, and also so you don’t go without. Large companies may also want to consider supply chain management for business essentials where your operation only pulls in exactly what you need, and on a just-in-time basis; minimising stock holdings, costs, outages, and delays.

Tip 6: Measure and evaluate

The only way you’re going to know if your current processes are working as efficiently as possible is if you take a step back, assess where you are, see what is working, and change what isn’t. Question everything, and don’t accept “we do it like this now because we’ve always done it this way” as an answer. Each part of your pick and pack process needs to be working optimally to guarantee success, and even more so with increased order volumes. It won’t be a complete overhaul, but identifying slight tweaks here and there will prove pivotal in your business running effectively. 

Working through a frequently changing landscape is intimidating and daunting, but there’s no better time to get these efficiency increasing hacks implemented in your operation. Choosing a packaging supplier you can really rely upon will allow you to focus on what you have control over, and ultimately let your business succeed, even in uncertain and challenging times.

Contributor: Priory Direct