One of the most important considerations for any cross-dock facility, and especially for recycling dock sweep operations, is the importance of planning for the challenging holiday season. As seasonal sales swell, so do the returns of packaging materials, pallets and other residual recyclables of distribution. Retailers, whose backrooms are already jammed with merchandise, now find themselves swamped with old corrugated and plastic wrap, along with other materials, which they urgently need to have removed through shipment back to the 3rd party cross-dock facility. This is compounded by seasonal closures at recycling plants, resulting in an inability to empty trailers, leading to a shortage of them for stockpiling material, as seasonal volumes increase demand for trailers. As a result, the cross-dock operation can become jammed with product, reducing productivity and threatening the delivery of superior customer service
This underscores the need for holiday planning for the cross-dock facility. This may include:Increased Staff Levels
Increased staffing, either temporary staff or permanent new hires to start as on-call employees, may be required to address the extra volumes of material. Be sure to allow enough training time to get new employees up to speed before the volume crush comes - and don't forget the importance of new hire orientation. The last thing you want to be doing is slowing down a trained employee to train a new hire when you can least afford the loss of productivity.
Will overtime be required on the weekend or beyond the regular shift? Organize it early to make sure there is no disruption to customer service. One thing to keep in mind, depending on the size of your operation, is that increased staffing levels can lead to congestion and a loss of productivity per person. And while congestion can be avoided by running overtime or extra shifts when the building is normally closed, this in turn puts strain on the cross-dock operator's ability to effectively supervise. Another thing to keep in mind is that employees will be looking to spend more time with friends and family over the holidays. The earlier the work schedule can be mapped out, this makes it easier for them to enjoy the holiday season.
Extra Mobile Handling Equipment
More pallet jacks, forklifts or other material handling equipment (MHE) may be required to support the extra employees. Make arrangements to rent these locally, before the peak volumes of material hit. There may also be backlogs at other pieces of equipment such as the baler, which may necessitate either longer hours or temporary storage until scrap can be baled.
Coordinate with Local Recycling Plants
Coordinate with local recycling facilities such as paper or plastic recycling plants, or scrap yards. They likely will have reduced hours over the holiday break, and to the extent that you can make unloading appointments or at least discuss the optimal delivery schedule with them, this will prevent delays, and ensure a timely return of empty trailers your bursting cross-dock may desperately need for refilling.
Trailer Rental and Coordination with Trucking Providers
Again, plan for increased needs for trailers, based on historical data, or through discussions with customers about their estimated volumes. Their success in part is tied to yours! For trucking companies serving more remote recycling plants, again be sure to coordinate with them to ensure an adequate supply of empty trailers to made available as needed.
When it comes to seasonal volume spurts, a failure to plan can lead to gridlock, and serious customer service failure. It pays to take time and plan for seasonal recycling volumes.