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Q4 is coming. Are you ready?

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Prepare Your Company For a Successful Q4

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, just after the all-important Back-To-School season, are all key events that have a major impact on the health of the US and global economies and their respective stock markets. Given the numerous store and business closures, the spike in unemployment, and bankruptcy filings that have occurred in the first half of this year, Q4 2020 will be the most important quarter in your company’s history. Will you be ready? How will you know that you are ready?

Preparation for this begins with focusing on the following supply chain pillars of people, process, and technology optimization. People and process optimization initiatives are often near-term solutions with low risk that generally require minimal capital investment but yet provide a healthy and immediate Return on Investment (ROI).

Conversely, technology, including automation improvements, are often longer-term solutions that require significant investment and bring a higher level of risk due to the complexity of IT systems, material handling needs, and systems integration, with the achievement of ROI highly dependent on the ability to execute and overall project duration.

Here are some of enVista’s “quick win” and longer-term recommendations to help spur your planning and execution of the impending and all-important retail holiday season that focus on ease of implementation, return on investment, adaptability, and resiliency for distribution, manufacturing, and retail environments.

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Focus On Your People

  • Focus on associate health and wellbeing programs to help mitigate future labor disruptions.   
  • Coordinate with staffing agencies on the need for seasonal associates to help manage the spike in inbound shipment receiving, which could start as early as August, through order fulfillment requirements in November and December, including retail store needs.
  • Conduct associate cross-training on order receipt, fulfillment, and customer engagement processes to allow for flexible holiday workforce staffing.
  • Offer a variety of shifts by day, starting times, and durations to seasonal and full-time associates to jointly meet their personal schedules and the needs of the business.  
  • Provide continual feedback on associate, team, and shift performance. Competition is healthy!
  • Reward your workforce for a job well done when goals are met through incentive based pay or non-monetary programs, such as meals, gift cards, or prizes/giveaways.

Improve Your Process

  • Conduct lean process improvement studies of the key nodes in your receipt and fulfillment supply chains in your distribution, manufacturing, and/or retail environments.
  • Understand the difference between “Value Add” and “Non-Value Add” and how the elimination of Non-Value Added steps will increase throughput, decrease cycle time, and improve order profitability. A true WIN-WIN-WIN!
  • Prepare for the post-holiday returns and the processing needs that will be required. This includes the space and systems required to process those returns that will be coming your way.  
  • Establish productivity metrics for all tasks in your distribution, manufacturing and/or retail environment.
  • Measure actual performance versus expected performance. Understand how and why variances are occurring and how to positively influence them.

Invest in Technology & Automation

  • Invest in data analytics for optimal decision making through Artificial Intelligence (AI) programming.
  • As a complement to AI, Machine Learning (ML) can recognize data patterns to provide real-time insight to assist in reducing cost and improving customer service level.
  • Getting close to the customer and the ever-shrinking delivery expectations from 2-day, to 1-day to same day, are a natural fit of hyper-local fulfillment strategies, often known as micro-fulfillment, from local stores or smaller footprint distribution nodes within your network.
  • Consider autonomous mobile robotic (AMR) solutions as part of your physical fulfillment strategies. Three major benefits of robotics integration have proven to be:
    • Improved productivity
    • Mitigation of human labor requirements
    • Reduced training time for deployment of robots versus human capital training requirements  
  • Consider implementing omnichannel processes of BOPIS, BOSFS, and BORIS, along with curbside pickup and contactless delivery for holiday shopping, as part of your digital customer engagement strategies.
  • Investment in other material handling systems including: Pick to Light, Goods to Person, Put Walls; Sortation, and Automated Packaging solutions.

By implementing any or all of these people, process and technology steps for retail seasonal planning, you can help prepare your company for a successful Q4. Let’s have a conversation™.

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