7 ways we’ve prepared for our biggest peak yet

Some of the item's in James and James's traditional peak season "survival kit"

Every year, we review our performance over peak season, to optimise it for the next Black Friday to Christmas period. Thanks to the productivity and client satisfaction increases we made last year, we were shortlisted for an SHD Logistics Award. In this post, Neil Sant, Operations Director, explains what’s new for 2019.

Our forecasts suggest that we’ll be shipping 77% more orders this Black Friday than last year. And it’s not just the big shopping days we need to prepare for – many of our clients’ “Cyber November” campaigns are kicking off this week, with tens of thousands of orders going out each day.

So what are we doing to get ready for our biggest peak season yet?

1. Training 100+ new recruits

Most retail businesses are reliant on seasonal team members in the run up to Christmas – and we’ll be hiring a record number this year.

To ensure these new recruits understand our technology and processes, we introduced the Pick and Pack Academy in 2018 – an intensive course that everyone goes through before entering our fulfilment centres.

This year, over 100 seasonal team members will be completing it before Black Friday. It’s a huge investment, but one that ensures our pick and pack accuracy stays at industry-leading levels throughout peak. After all, no-one wants to receive the wrong Black Friday bargain or Christmas gift.

2. Operating 24 hours a day

In past years, we’ve worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week over peak season. This year, we’ll be working around the clock.

Because couriers don’t collect overnight, we’ll be using the hours of 10:00PM to 5:00AM for replenishment. This means breaking down our clients’ bulk stock and putting it into pickable locations, so that it’s ready to fulfil orders with the next day.

3. Increasing goods-in capacity

“Goods in” is the area of the fulfilment centre that receives bulk stock – often on pallets or containers – checks it, logs it in our software, and puts it into pickable locations.

Goods in is often under immense pressure over peak season – as clients send in extra, last-minute stock for Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals, there are often queues of trucks outside our door.

By working 24 hours a day – and completing the “put away” part of goods in overnight – we can increase our capacity to receive new stock during the day. This will mean that existing clients’ stock is ready for pick and pack faster.

It will also mean that we can onboard new clients closer to Black Friday than before. We’ve even added another Onboarding Specialist to our Client Services team, to help new clients get set up.

4. Appointing new team leaders

To manage our new recruits and shift patterns, we’ve appointed four new team leaders. Aigars, Aleks, Mimi and Stan are all experienced members of our fulfilment centre team and will now have additional responsibility for its day-to-day running.

It’s a great example of the career development opportunities open to all at James and James.

5. Upgrading software and hardware

Our cloud-based software runs our warehouse operations, gives our clients visibility over their stock and orders, and provides consumers with live online tracking.

While we improve its features and performance throughout the year, peak season provides a new set of challenges. This year, we’ve upgraded the platform to cope with a much higher volume of orders concurrently, and improved page load times and self-service features for clients.

We’ve also upgraded the hardware we use to connect to the system internally – from new WiFi connections and networks, to new PCs and packing desks, to new chargers for barcode scanners. This will improve our efficiency – and mitigate against downtime – throughout peak.

6. Improving our transport links

While our Northampton fulfilment centre is close to major courier hubs and road, rail and air links, it doesn’t have the best of public transport services.

To make sure our full-time team and seasonal recruits can all get to work, we’ve added new bike racks and 40 extra parking spaces this year. We’re also running minibus services across town, helping colleagues who are starting or finishing overnight shifts get to and from home.

7. Assembling our survival kits

It’s become a James and James tradition to give a “survival kit” to everyone who works in the fulfilment centre at peak (pictured above). It’s a busy time during chilly weather, so it’s important that we all stay warm and energised.

This year’s kit features a few practical items – gloves, tissues, and hot and cold pads – as well as a few little luxuries – energy drinks, chocolate coins and a tot of spirit for Christmas Eve.

So we’re ready for our biggest and best peak yet. If you’re looking for a fulfilment partner to share the load this year, contact us today and we’ll get you up and running before Black Friday.