How do you handle surges of orders?

Every Friday, we answer a common question about fulfillment, shipping, or business. This week’s question comes from one of the fans who entered our giveaway contest for a Roku. Today we will answer the following question: “how do you handle surges of orders?”

We’ve been really busy lately because of the coronavirus pandemic. As you can imagine, with so many people staying in their homes, eCommerce orders have dramatically increased. That makes our jobs quite a bit busier! Luckily, we are equipped to handle surges of orders. We’re going to share three best practices that we follow to keep orders shipping on time!

1. Start with good processes and extra capacity.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say. In shipping and fulfillment, this is especially true since we are constantly under time pressure to perform. Our clients’ customers expect packages to arrive quickly, and we take special pride in shipping quickly!

First things first, we don’t work at 100% capacity all the time. You always want to have at least a little bit of slack time, if you can. It keeps workers from burning out and it prevents us from having to pay for tons of extremely expensive overtime, the cost of which would end up getting passed on to our clients.

Next, we stay organized. Everything we store rests in unique location in the warehouse. We have a computer system that tells us where everything is stored. Every item gets scanned on the way out, and this allows us to keep inventory.

Lastly, we divide up labor to stay efficient. Workers who pack packages are never far away from packing supplies or postage printing machines. Those who retrieve inventory from the warehouse seldom have to slow down to pack a package. Basically, we look for the “eight wastes” so we can run a cost-efficient shop and keep our workers well-paid, healthy, and safe.

2. Hire people for the night shift.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how efficient you are sometimes. When you have a big enough surge of orders, then there just aren’t enough hours in a workday. That is, during a regular workday.

For the most part, we don’t work night shifts. However, we keep up our clients and we pay attention to their sales and promotion calendars. When we know there is about to be a big influx of orders, we have a relief team that ships packages out in the night. This keeps us from falling behind on orders.

3. If you run into a delay, be honest.

All this said, even if you work through the night, there will be times when you cannot ship every order on time. The coronavirus actually forced us into this situation for a brief period of time. We had to send out an email to all our clients saying, “we’re going to try, but we can’t promise same-day fulfillment right now.”

We don’t like sending emails like those out. Yet we know that honesty and communication is really important. Sometimes, warehouses, even gigantic ones run by Amazon, will get too many orders and will fall a few days behind. When that happens, we admit it to our clients and we work like bees at a beehive until the orders are shipped.

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