The sun has definitely got its hat on this year with the ongoing heatwave threatening food production across Europe, posing the very real risk of shortages and higher prices.
I listened recently to a podcast where logistics operators and retailers were unanimous in that Black Friday has changed the shape of Christmas and peak period trading. November 23rd is when it takes place this year. Some retailers like Amazon have tried to spread the volume and control the narrative by hosting their own discount events like Prime Day. However, shoppers have now been conditioned to expect real bargains on Black Friday so we fully anticipate they’ll again be drawn to the flames like proverbial moths.
And while there’s no real talk of the UK following suit, how long will it be before we start adopting ‘Singles Day’ from China (November 11, 2018) as another peak shopping opportunity?
In the four years or so that Black Friday has been on the shopping calendar it has proved a very steep learning curve for retailers. A time where they have learned about the capability of their equipment, their carrier network, and the behaviour/shopping patterns of their customers.
Some of the sage advice imparted on the podcast suggested planning early and sizing your operation to as near peak as you can financially afford, which means using technology and automation to ensure you’re working as efficiently as possible.
A recent report* talked of retailers knowing when they had reached their tipping point for automation. It suggested that some degree of automation should be considered by businesses processing over 1,000 orders/day. The trick is finding the right level to start with, one that grows and flexes with business demands, and it could be as simple as using a handheld scanner to help the picking process.
I’m with Peter Ward of the UKWA when he says that automation should be both portable and affordable, and where repetitive processes are taken in bite-sized chunks.
Preparing for spikes like Black Friday takes time to plan as well as investment. One area that could really help at peak times is being able to hire equipment like printers and mobile devices in much the same way as you would recruit temps to cover seasonal demands. Our ‘switch to android’ offer allows supply chain users to move to a more modern Android environment without capital expenditure; you simply rent the devices for as long as you need them.
And my advice is don’t ignore the kit you do have. Preventative maintenance on assets like printers, scanners, handhelds and mobile computers could minimise your machine failures. Our knowledge of devices from suppliers like Zebra and our MPS and MDM packages could stop you being seen as the Christmas Grinch for failing to deliver on time!
Spikes like Black Friday, Cyber weekend, bank holidays, and events like Halloween and Valentines Day are burgeoning shopping opportunities. If you don’t want to be sweating about whether you’ll cope when the heat is on maybe it’s time to look at your operation and see what can be put in place.
Author: Richard Gilliard – MD Renovotec Ltd
* Warehouse Automation and software systems, an ebook produced by InternetRetailing and Conveyor Networks