Winter means more than an uptick in your hot chocolate sales. It can often mean power outages, downed internet and, perhaps most importantly, very unhappy customers on the other end of a dying cell phone line.
What to do? “Fail to plan and you’ll plan to fail,” says Avanti Markets CEO Jim Brinton. The good news is, he’s got a plan that will help you survive and thrive during the winter season.
Power To The Pickers
First, look for the potential pain points at your warehouse. Most operators do their picking in the evening in order to have the most up-to-date inventory information. Do you have a generator, or even headlamps, for your employees?
And speaking of light, if you use a light-based inventory picking system that won’t be running either. Have you mapped your warehouse so that employees can find what they need to fill orders, even in the dark?
If you’re using a cloud-based software, like Avanti Markets’, you’ve got the ability to access your orders anywhere with an internet connection—so maybe not your office, but perhaps from home.
And in the event that you can’t find power anywhere, it’s a good idea to regularly print out inventory trends or popular item lists in case you need to make educated guesses to service your customers.
Nobody Wants To Do Laps In The Dark
An important key to success during a storm is adapting your existing system to fit the current situation. For example, if your pick list is mapped to that light-based picking system, you’ll need a way to reorganize it to work in concert with your warehouse mapping. Have you set up a report that will print out orders that work in sync with your warehouse setup?
Something For Everyone
Once you’ve optimized your order-filling capabilities during a power outage, how will you manage expectations?
“Everything will slow down, you won’t be as efficient, you probably won’t run at the capacity you normally would,” explains Brinton.
Being realistic about your capabilities doesn’t mean throwing up your hands and giving up. It requires taking a critical look at your customer base and prioritizing their needs according to certain criteria.
“It’s worth taking the time to rank your customers for an emergency situation when you simply won’t be able to service every account at 100%,” Brinton says. Have you ranked your accounts in descending order from those that must have their orders completely filled daily down to those that could wait a day? Additionally, have you considered this type of ranking within each driver’s route?
More generally, now is as good a time as any to be sure your business and your employees are ready for whatever Mother Nature throws your way. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s ready.gov website, businesses can do much to prepare for hazards both natural and manmade. Not surprisingly, it’s all about planning. Ready.gov suggests a five-step approach that includes program management, planning, implementation, testing and exercises and program improvement. Much more detail can be found at Ready.gov, but here are some key takeaways:
--40% of businesses affected by natural or manmade disasters never reopen.
--Hazard prevention is as important as hazard preparation.
--A BIA, or business impact analysis, is a critical piece in setting priorities because it identifies the impact of major service disruptions.
--People matter. Plans to protect employees, including those with disabilities, are crucial. Employee assistance after a disaster should also be factored in.
--Remember the fire drill? Your emergency plan needs to be drilled as well. What works on paper may not work in a real-world scenario.
--Don’t be afraid to fail…at least not on a test run. Failure here identifies opportunities to improve your plan.
At the end of the day, with some solid pre-planning and organization, your business can most certainly weather the storm.