7 ways we prepared for peak in 2019

Every year, we review our performance over peak season, to optimize it for the next Black Friday to Christmas period. Thanks to the productivity and client satisfaction increases we made in 2018, we were shortlisted for an SHD Logistics Award. In this post, Neil Sant, Chief Operating Officer, explains what we did differently for 2019.

1. Trained 100+ new recruits

Most retail businesses are reliant on seasonal team members in the run up to Christmas – and we hired a record number in 2019.

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

2019 saw over 100 seasonal team members 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. Operated 24 hours a day

In past years, we’ve worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week over peak season. In 2019, we were working around the clock.

Because couriers don’t collect overnight, we used 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 fulfill orders with the next day.

3. Increased goods-in capacity

“Goods in” is the area of the fulfillment 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 during peak – 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.

This approach also means we can onboard new clients closer to Black Friday than we could before. We even added another Onboarding Specialist to our Client Services team, to help new clients get set up.

4. Appointed new team leaders

To manage our new recruits and shift patterns, we appointed four new team leaders in 2019. Aigars, Aleks, Mimi and Stan are all experienced members of our fulfillment centre team and 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. Upgraded 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. In 2019, we 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 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 improved our efficiency – and mitigated against downtime – throughout peak.

6. Improved our transport links

While our Northampton fulfillment 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 added new bike racks and 40 extra parking spaces in 2019. We also ran minibus services across town, helping colleagues who start or finish overnight shifts get to and from home.

7. Assembled our survival kits

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

2019’s kit featured 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.

If you’re looking for a fulfillment partner to share the load this year, contact us today and we’ll get you up and running before Black Friday.