What will the Freight Peak Season look like for 2020?
With the COVID pandemic expectations of what 2020 would bring at the start of the year had to be thrown out. Supply Chains were smashed, and while a range of retail businesses had to close and / or saw a drastic reduction in their orders, conversely there were many, particularly in industries such as groceries, that saw a massive increase in orders (often hard to fulfill given Supply Chains could not deliver).
So, what will the freight peak season defined by events such as Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, (increasingly important in Australia), look like this year?
We saw a potential glimpse of it with Father’s Day this year. Click & Collect has truly come into its own and online sales went through the roof, causing Australia Post to announce one of its busiest days ever with a record 2.35 million parcels and letters dropped off. This was across Australia, although with Melbourne in stage 4 lockdown, there was no choice on purchasing gifts for dad in person. Clearly though, online shopping has had a major boost from COVID, one that will not wind back in a Post COVID world (whenever that eventuates).
Australia Post are already advising wholesalers, retailers, logistics companies and consumers of their new deadlines for ordering shipping to ensure your gifts arrive under the Christmas tree on time. They are also looking to hire more staff, (many casuals), than usual for this Peak Season to deal with the expected load. Woolworths has highlighted concerns with the Supply Chain for any celebratory feasts in the coming months.
Ultimately, just when we thought there might be no real peak to the season this year it looks instead like we will have a Peak Season albeit with an earlier start and finish.
So, what should you do to prepare?
Hiring new staff
Hiring new staff to cope with increased activity in your warehouse or customer service team this year will be a different experience because of the unfortunate increase in people out of work due to COVID. Expect higher volume of resumes to sort through; give yourself the time to do so, it’s only fair to the applicants. Be kind to those who don’t get a guernsey.
Split and Reduced Shifts
Whilst volume may be up, perhaps for the first time for your business since restrictions were put in place, you must ensure that you adhere to the Health & Safety guidelines set up by your State Government. This includes measures to socially distance, which has led to split shifts. Ensure you have the right team leaders to deal with your extra shifts. Technology such as an TMS system can assist with automating your warehouse, reducing the workload on staff to process the same among (or more) orders.
Training is important for any new hires that are brought on to deal with the extra work. This year of course training will have to take into account the guidelines around hygiene and social distancing and regular cleaning of facilities to keep your staff, the truck drivers who pick up for you, and ultimately your customers safe. Try to minimise the sharing of tools and equipment as well; ensure they are regularly cleaned between shifts. Have a look at how your supply chain systems can support further productivity gains during this time, ensure training to staff on these features / processes to embed those efficiencies.
Guidelines (and therefore training of both old and new staff) may need to be updated to incorporate new processes for optimising deliveries. Think about how you can speed up order processing, what you can get ready ahead of time to streamline tasks like carrier bookings, adding extra lead times for delivery. This may include communicating those requests and setting expectations with your customers. Communication with all involved: staff, suppliers and customers is key to success and this may mean updating those guidelines.
Along with extra hands, you may need extra equipment to put in those hands. Especially if your trying to reduce the sharing of equipment as mentioned above. You don’t necessarily need to buy it, think about renting instead. Ensuring there is enough equipment will keep things running smoothly but, will also reduce the sharing of equipment which can only help with COVID preventative measures.
With less people willing to physically go to Shopping Centres this year and habits being cemented in online shopping, the transport companies will be under even more pressure than ever. Already, there is a requirement for extra days to be incorporated even prior to Freight Peak Season commencing. We provide advice annually to our customers on how to deal with the Freight Peak Season and the points from last year are still highly relevant.
It suffices this year to just add that you should:
- Expect delays, and adjust for them by shipping orders a day or two earlier than usual
- Consider sending General freight by Express Road; Express Road by Air if it will ensure the consignment gets there on time
- Communicate effectively with your customers on expectations; get them to order sooner, order in bulk; hold more stock if they can
- Make sure your data is clean and accurate, ensure labels are properly addressed; affixed, and no straps cover your labels that will slow down the carriers in executing their delivery or lead to lost freight
- For a smooth freight enquiry, when dealing with your freight broker, forwarder, or carrier make sure you have all the details ready for them: con note (tracking) numbers, receiver details, and consignment details to expedite the process
Outsource Customer Service
There’s nothing worse than having a bustling, overstretched warehouse that also needs to deal with freight enquiries from your customers. Worse still is dealing with the aftermath if enquiries aren’t answered and resolved quickly and professionally. Consider outsourcing to a freight specialist team your customer service for freight enquiries this year. Yes, I am referring to us. We have the best modern bespoke technology and the most experienced team for this type of work that we’ve been doing for hundreds of companies for decades. It will save you time and money on hiring and training new staff which just adds to the frenzy of coping with the Freight Peak Season.
Managing the Freight Peak Season is a massive task most years, and this year it is even more crucial than ever to get this right so that you can smoothly move into the upcoming year without loss of customers due to bad experiences on deliveries. Everyone is patient and understanding due to the current circumstances. Still, they need their orders fulfilled and you want them to compare your business favourably to what’s possible during these taxing times.
We hope you find the above tips thought provoking and helpful. If you need our system with the automation of your warehouse via FMS systems or Customer Service for deliveries, please contact us to discuss. We’d be delighted to assist you.