Yule logistics: managing the seasonal materials handling rush
For logistics and warehousing companies, Christmas is both the most wonderful time of the year and the most stressful. The rise of e-commerce has stimulated 24% growth in the industry – with turnover hitting £11.8 billion in 2015 – and many of these online orders will happen over the festive period.
But the more products a company has to ship, the more complicated it becomes to fulfil these orders. Black Friday and Christmas can be especially demanding on materials handling equipment: the likelihood of breakdowns increases, extra equipment and staff are needed, and it becomes difficult to keep costs down.
Fortunately, if you take the necessary steps, these problems can be avoided or mitigated. Here are five ways to get your fleet ready for the festive season.
1. Service your fleet
Nobody running a materials handling company needs to be told that their equipment requires regular maintenance, but it’s especially important to ensure that your fleet is fully serviced before the Christmas rush. This can be a problem if you’re out of warranty and you haven’t budgeted for the appropriate support: third-party repairs can often be prohibitively costly for a cashflow-sensitive business.
This problem can be avoided with the right type of finance. A contract hire arrangement allows you to incorporate maintenance and repair costs into your regular rental payments – ensuring that your fleet is in ship shape for the seasonal surge.
2. Evaluate your staff and equipment needs
Christmas, Black Friday and other periods of busy sales activity lead to a kind of “all hands on deck” mentality, and they inevitably force businesses to re-evaluate their staffing and equipment needs. If you need to upscale your fleet or bolster your workforce, you’ll want to know well in advance.
Carefully analyse your business to identify areas where you’re suffering from a shortage, and take the appropriate measures to address it – whether that’s hiring temporary staff or increasing your total of forklift trucks.
3. Upgrade your fleet
It’s tempting to try and keep functional – if outdated – equipment running far beyond its use-by date, but there’s no getting around the fact that older fleets tend to break down far more. After a certain point, maintenance becomes more like life support.
So before the busiest season begins, make sure you’ve upgraded your fleet. The right leasing agreement can give you budget-friendly access to the best machinery on the market – and with terms that allow you to upgrade when you eventually renew your contract, at little additional cost.
4. Upgrade your fleet
The run up to Christmas is traditionally associated with a rise in forklift accidents. For the twin purposes of efficiency and safety, you should make sure your staff have an up-to-date understanding of how to use your machinery and equipment. Ensure temporary team members are properly onboarded, and that refresher courses are made available to anyone who might need them – the fewer workplace injuries, the less downtime, the happier your workforce, and the better your festive season.
5. prepare for the cold
Finally, make sure your fleet is as weather-proof as possible. Snow and ice make it harder for your warehouse’s trucks and vehicles to get around, and for obvious reasons, demand for snow ploughs and gritters increases exponentially around the winter season. If you need to clear some snow or ice, make sure you have access to the necessary equipment. A little preparation goes a long way.
In fact, it’s a principle that applies to both logistics and Christmas in general. If you go to the supermarket on December 24th, you shouldn’t be surprised when you don’t get a turkey, and if your company doesn’t plan for the festive rush, you shouldn’t be surprised if things become chaotic and costs start to rise. For logistics businesses, Christmas starts long before December.