Fulfillment Centers Go Into Overdrive During the Holidays

There was a time, not too long ago, when holiday shoppers spent the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve jammed into stores looking for the present to put under the Christmas tree. With the advent of cyber shopping, the days of jammed pack stores could be a thing of the past. Of course this means that fulfillment centers become the new front line for delivering goods before Christmas. Planning for the uptick in holiday fulfillment should begin months in advance in order for “all systems to be a go” once the on-line shopping kicks in.

For retailers Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the traditional kick off of the holiday shopping season. All eyes are on the sales figures for that weekend to give an indication as to how the upcoming shopping season will play out. But now a new indicator has been added: “Cyber Monday.” That’s when everyone goes back to work and starts shopping on line. To get ready, fulfillment centers have added additional workers up and down the supply chain line but especially in the area of pick and pack.

Depending on who the fulfillment center is contracted out to, there’s a good bet they might be operating around the clock during the holiday on-line shopping season. Naturally this will mean accommodating the needs to of staff at hours they might not be adapted to right off the bat. That first overnight pick and pack shift is going to take some adjustment but it won’t be long before the workers have settled into their new role of “Santa’s elves” and start getting those orders flying out of the facility.

One extra component to these seasonal fulfillment services might be gift wrapping services. This is going to add another level of manager and oversight to the pick and pack chain. Not only might certain items in a shipment be flagged for gift wrapped but they can also be designated specific wrapping options. Will it fall to the pick and pack employee to wrap as well or will this be a group of special hires? These are the elements that have to be worked out well in advance.

An increase in business during the holiday shopping seasons translates to an increase in all the support services. This means additional shipping materials such as boxes and packing will need to be in stock. But it will also require that the fulfillment center’s management has to coordinate with transportation for what is sure to be additional shipments.

As the Christmas Eve cut off date draws near demand will be on the rise. There is not a lot of room for error during these times. If a company promised delivering on a specific date then that’s what needs to be accomplished. Failure to do so can put future fulfillment contracts in jeopardy. Once the final packages have been sent out there is a bit of breathing space until the returns come flying back. One benefit is that a large percentage of these returns won’t be the fault of the fulfillment center but of the unhappy gift recipient. And then, it begins again as it does every year.

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