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Peak seasons labor shortage for distribution centers

#likeaboss: Top Three Ways to Handle Labor Shortages During Your Peak Season


With the biggest shopping season of the year nearly upon us, eCommerce retailers bracing for a flood of holiday orders (and the returns that follow) may be facing a sobering realization: they don’t have the workers to get those orders shipped.


Economic news has been mixed over the last year, leading to early predictions that retail sales will only grow modestly from 2022 numbers. However, the recession many economists expected hasn’t materialized—despite rising interest rates, inflation has been declining, wages are going up, families are continuing to spend, and unemployment is low. How low? As of July 2023, it sat at 3.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


You know peak season is coming. Holiday purchases start in October, spiking on Black Friday and over the Thanksgiving weekend and staying strong through the holiday season. January is also a busy shipping month, with the inevitable returns that occur after all the presents have been unwrapped.


If your past solution has been to add staff to ensure orders are processed and on their way before holiday shipping deadlines with the major carriers, the numbers aren’t on your side. That’s no reason to panic, though. You can still stay on top of order fulfillment (like a boss) with automation solutions that let you make the most of the workforce you have.


Automation Solutions to Overcome Labor Shortages


Every eCommerce order fulfillment company is different, which is why Tension Automation offers a range of options to allow you to introduce automation to your system to enhance your efficiency and accuracy. What are the possibilities?


  • Solution #1 – Full Automation – Did you know that on average, implementing automated packaging equipment can yield 4x package throughput? A fully automated line with packaging equipment and a SLAM (Scan-Label-Apply-Manifest) line that automatically scans, weighs, and identifies package dimensions to handle the DIMs, labeling, and sortation part of your order fulfillment process can help minimize the challenges that come with labor shortages.


  • Solution #2 – Semi Automation – Manual packaging stations with a SLAM line; if, for example, your product doesn’t lend itself to automated packaging, you can still optimize the last 100 feet of your order fulfillment process, devoting your labor pool to getting packages ready while the DIMs, labeling, and sortation are automatically handled.


  • Solution #3 – Hybrid – Integrate an automated packaging system, conveyors, sortation, a DIM scale, a print and apply label system, or a combination of these elements to eliminate costly bottlenecks in your order fulfillment processes. Not sure what you need? Tension Automation is an industry expert at integration. We can consult on a new layout and seamlessly implement a customized solution with our integration software.


Measurable Savings with Automation


Automation is an investment in your business with measurable financial benefits that boost your bottom line. Consider these advantages:


  • Less Labor: Strategic automation increases order fulfillment without increased hiring, meaning your operations won’t be held back by a lack of personnel at critical times (or the training required to bring permanent or temporary workers up to speed). Keep your payroll lean and focus your staff’s valuable expertise on high-skilled tasks.


  • More Throughput: Consumer loyalty is fickle—one study reported that 69 percent of respondents were much less or less likely to shop with a retailer again if their delivery wasn’t made within two days of when they expected it. Automation helps you prevent order backlogs that can affect future sales.


  • Short ROI: In addition to improving overall fulfillment speed and cutting down on labor costs, automation can reduce errors and the amount you pay for shipping. Typical time to realize a full return on your investment is only 12 to 18 months.


  • Bonus Savings: A variable packaging system can accelerate your ROI by reducing your use of consumable shipping materials.


Staying Ahead During Peak Season


When increasing orders and limited staffing are on a collision course in your order fulfillment operation, automation can help keep you effortlessly ahead of the curve. Tension Automation has a variety of flexible, expandable, easily integrated solutions to make you the boss of peak season this year and every year. Contact us today to learn more about your options.


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