How Delivery Accuracy Can Take the Pressure Off Your Supply Chain During Peak Periods
Author: Jeff Taylor, Regional Director UK & Ireland, Honeywell Sensing and Productivity Solutions.
As supply chains across the region lead up to the busy period of the year – the Christmas holiday period – it’s important that businesses take stock and look at what worked last year and what can be improved on. Time spent reflecting is well worth it if it helps streamline processes, become more efficient, improve customer satisfaction and ultimately perform better when the next peak operating period hits.
The biggest factor impacting on the accuracy of replenishment and picking in order fulfilment is user error, and when the user is under increased pressure during periods of peak demand the likelihood of errors only increases.
The Christmas holiday is also a high pressure time for consumers as they often have a lot more riding on the fact that the right product will be delivered at the right time. If consumers are left in a situation where they have ordered Christmas gifts for their loved ones online and they fail to be delivered correctly and on time it could ruin their holiday season and impact on their perception of the business they ordered from and their delivery operations. This one bad experience will also make it unlikely that they become a repeat customer, which is a huge loss for businesses.
So what lessons need to be learnt and what can be done to increase accuracy during peak periods?
Black Friday Lessons
In 2014 in the U.S the Black Friday shopping peak period at the end of November exceeded the industry’s expectations and order accuracy became the least of their business worries when many supply chains failed to deliver on next day deliveries for three days due to a backlog in their supply chains. The failure of businesses to deliver on demands received a swift backlash from consumers and the media, with stories of children who would be devastated because they wouldn’t receive a Christmas present. As a result, many businesses came out with damaged reputations that lasted a lot longer than the three to four days it took for them to get their supply chains up and running again.
The debacle led to a number of lessons learnt and changes made for 2015. Many supply chain businesses secured new premises and an additional workforce of 50 per cent ahead of peak periods such as Black Friday. Retailers also learnt that they needed to start providing accurate forecasts, rather than forecasts overblown by 40 per cent, which resulted in them being unable to have many parcels collected, let alone deliver them for three days.
Businesses also learnt the hard way that they needed to be honest with consumers and set realistic delivery expectations for them. This year they communicated clearly to consumers that not all orders would be delivered the next day and it was a much more successful year.
Being Prepared for the Peak Season
The general process of placing an order, shipping the right product, in the right quantity, at the right time, and to the right destination doesn’t change for supply chains whether they are operating in quiet or busy periods. What does change in periods of peak operation is that the pressure to ensure accurate order distribution is heightened, as returned incorrect or incomplete orders have to be repacked and redistributed, which not only places an additional operational burden on the DC, but also impacts on customer satisfaction levels at a critical time of the year. To help eliminate the possibility of errors occurring in general warehouse operations during peak season, DC managers need to ensure that their processes are supported by the right technologies, such as voice.
In a voice-enabled warehouse, workers wearing rugged headsets receive verbal direction on tasks to complete select workflows and they speak their responses back to the system which is trained to each user’s individual voice. Voice systems enforce order accuracy through the use of random check digits. The system won’t allow the worker to continue to the next picking location unless they read the appropriate digits, which results in up to 99.995 per cent accuracy at all times.
In addition to greater levels of picking accuracy, voice users report productivity improvements well above 20 per cent, depending on the systems that voice replaces (paper/label systems or handheld scanning). By eliminating the need to read a display screen, a paper pick list, or a purchase order, workers obtain their next task en route to the next location, thereby reducing downtime while travelling within the facility.
Global supply chain logistics company, Mainfreight, has benefited from increased efficiency and productivity gains that has transformed the business.
The ability of voice systems to deliver picking accuracy and increased productivity has benefits at any time of the year for supply chains. However, when the pressure of a peak period arrives, increased accuracy and productivity means more parcels delivered correctly and therefore higher profits.
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