Eight steps to beat peak fatigue

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Nik Pamplin suggests eight steps to navigate the difficult peak period, and ensure a successful next season.

The challenging economic environment has created the perfect storm for retail, with a combination of labour and goods shortages and periods of unprecedented demand. While supply chains, historically, are good at coping with shortages, over the last few years, it’s been increasingly difficult to forecast customer demand and shopping behaviours.

Now we are returning to some sense of normality, even if ‘normal’ doesn’t look like it did before. We may be seeing a return to more normal cycles of behaviour, or at least we are starting to see what consumer behaviours are sticking to and be able to predict demand better. But we still have to deal with uncertainty and volatility.

Retailers still need to be prepared to adapt rapidly and thrive, which means learning from peak periods – in post-peak reviews and using them to prepare for the next rush. Finding better ways of working and optimising supply chain efficiencies has never been more critical to success.

To ensure your business is thriving and not just surviving, you must manage peaks and troughs at every stage of the supply chain.

More so now than ever before. It’s easy to focus all energies on peak periods. But the difference between success and failure (or disaster!) can be how well you manage your exit from these periods. Post-peak is a critical time for review and recovery, not a time for rest and relaxation.

With the unprecedented growth of e-commerce and increasing demands of customers, it’s more important than ever to find better ways of working and optimising the supply chain for efficiency and success. Thriving in today’s competitive and dynamic landscape requires careful planning at every stage of the cycle, including the peaks and troughs of a seasonal business. Carrying forward learnings into future trading periods is a fundamental part of this.


Eight steps to beat peak fatigue


Here are eight top steps I recommend to beat peak fatigue:

  1. Start with a list – during busy peak periods, firefighting is inevitable. Now’s the time to list everything that has been pushed down the priority list.
  2. Conduct a Post-Peak Review (PPR) – this helps you get to the root cause of the problems, not just the symptoms and identify the underlying issues – ensuring glitches don’t re-occur.
  3. Improve processes and training – an influx of temporary staff can lead to poor performance – an impartial review captures frontline feedback, drives best practices – improves training materials.
  4. Driving robust, valuable data – It’s important to seek expert guidance and objectively review how information is captured, processed and shared. It’s the only way to improve culture, gain useful and relevant insight, and facilitate transformation.
  5. Assess your capacity – post-peak is the best time to assess your warehouse capacity – the breaking point could be closer than you think – ensure it aligns with your sales strategy and forecasts.
  6. Check stock integrity – when your workforce can be as much as 50% temporary staff, it’s almost certain that problems will occur with the inventory.
  7. Measure forecast accuracy – forecasting is a critical measure for the supply chain. Conduct an independent review to assess any disparity without bias – improve accuracy across sales, procurement, logistics and other stages of the supply chain.
  8. Optimise space – during peak trade, warehouses grow organically and can become inefficient – it’s important to look at your layout strategy carefully ensuring a structured growth plan.


Time to recover

When we talk about recovery, it’s easy to think about salvaging the efficiencies that may have been lost during a hectic season.

But a comprehensive PPR is about much more than just recuperation. The main aims are to optimise and improve, not just for today but also for the future. By using the post-peak time to plan and prepare, you can ensure that your warehouse space and layout, your internal processes, your machinery and technology, and your people are fully equipped for next year.

By acting promptly and taking advantage of the seasonal cycle, you can bolster operations for the following seasons and not be caught out by increasing volumes in the warehouse.

Doing nothing isn’t an option, particularly with today’s evolving e-commerce market and growing consumer demands for choice and convenience. But if these steps are difficult to achieve due to budget or resource constraints, start with key areas that will have the greatest impact on your operation. Whichever steps you prioritise, it’s important to have a strategy and checklist in place and to plan your exit from peak meticulously.


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