How Can 3PL Warehouses Prepare For Winter?
By Emily Newton, Revolutionized
The winter season can pose additional challenges for a third-party logistics (3PL) warehouse and the people who work there. However, getting prepared before the colder weather hits is an excellent way to prevent complications. Here are some actionable strategies to consider at the 3PL warehouse and other areas of the business.
Know The Biggest Risks Facing The 3PL Warehouse
Getting ready for winter starts when people at the warehouse analyze the biggest seasonal challenges the company faces. That depends on things such as the facility’s headquarters and where it sends deliveries.
Seasonal risks are not unique to the winter. Traffic is usually heavier in the summer months, for example. The spring and summer months can increase flooding risks due to heavy rainfall.
There are also different maintenance measures needed in the warmer versus colder months. Batteries need more power to start vehicles when it’s chilly, making more frequent battery checks necessary. Similarly, oil and filter changes may need to happen more often in winter.
If the 3PL company does not have climate-controlled trailers, decision makers may wish to invest in smart sensors that can immediately flag the appropriate parties, prompting further investigation. Not all goods shipped through a 3PL logistics provider can tolerate the frigid temperatures possible during winter-weather transport. Those need closer monitoring to ensure they arrive in the expected condition.
Leaders at the warehouse should review data from previous winters to verify the biggest past threats. History is not always the best predictor of future issues, but it can provide a worthwhile starting point. They should also look closer to see how those problems got dealt with then. From there, they can decide if it’s best to take the same approach or do things differently if they happen again.
Create A Winter-Weather Checklist
Even the most conscientious people sometimes forget process steps. That’s why making a checklist specifically for the winter months can be a great way to cover all the bases.
One option is to break down each required step into categories to make it more manageable. Logistics company A. Duie Pyle has several hundred heater trailers typically used from mid-November through mid-April. Each one goes through a pre-season inspection process to check the batteries and thermostats. Such proactiveness reduces the chances that things will go wrong in the thick of the season.
Getting a 3PL warehouse ready for winter also means checking its climate control system. It’s best to schedule such appointments with technicians well before the season arrives. Otherwise, the demand could be so great that servicing can’t happen before winter begins.
Preparedness extends beyond the warehouse, too. After all, if things happen once goods leave a warehouse, everyone at that facility feels the impact. Do drivers know how to put snow chains on their tires and recognize the appropriate usage conditions? If not, such training should be part of the checklist. That knowledge will empower drivers to react safely and correctly when inclement weather strikes.
Virtually no checklist is complete after the first attempt at making it. However, learning from what’s missing and adapting the checklist as required is an excellent way to make it progressively more in-depth and actionable.
Plan To Hire More Workers
Winter holidays often put 3PL companies under more strain because they encourage consumerism, which, in turn, spurs shipments. That’s why getting ready for winter may involve increasing staffing numbers. However, dealing with holiday demand surges can be stressful and fast-paced. Creating an excellent work environment and providing relevant incentives can keep morale and retention high.
At the end of August 2022, 3PL company Geodis announced plans to hire 5,000 more seasonal workers across its campuses to remain resilient through its peak winter season. The company already has 13,000 employees in total. That news came alongside numerous forecasts predicting a healthy retail season to wrap up 2022.
Having the human resources to meet customers’ needs requires a forward-thinking mindset. However, most people working in 3PL companies are no strangers to forecasting. Demand forecasting is an excellent way to prevent waste because the goal is to figure out the optimal number of products to satisfy the people likely to buy them.
3PL leaders also can do a kind of demand forecasting with their current staffing numbers to see how they stack up now versus how things might change in the winter. A data analysis tool can be extremely helpful in revealing any gaps that better staffing numbers could solve. It could also help answer questions related to when to start hiring and whether certain locations in a 3PL company’s network need more new team members than others.
Connect With Partners To Pool And Shift Resources When Possible
The winter season also can provide compelling reasons to communicate with industry partners and see what they could do to relieve any current or expected burdens. Those conversations could also reveal opportunities to move resources between locations, making the company more agile when faced with demand fluctuations.
Consider how Ruan, a company providing 3PL services in the United States, works with clients to shift resources to the most appropriate places as needed. Clarios, a company making advanced battery solutions, is one of Ruan’s clients.
Its peak demand period normally occurs in the winter, while other Ruan clients see the highest demand during the year’s warmer months. People at Ruan are assessing demand versus resource availability across the client base, then doing what they can so that companies have what they need to get deliveries to the right places.
The employees at a 3PL warehouse should not treat the winter as the best time to utilize their partner networks. Such resource-sharing can and should happen throughout the year. However, the winter months often bring some extraordinary challenges. That reality is all the more reason to give details about difficulties and have discussions with external partners about how to overcome them.
The months leading up to winter also pose excellent opportunities to reach out to other 3PL companies to learn what they did to get ready for the colder months. There’s a good chance some companies will have engaged in proactive measures that representatives from other 3PL organizations never considered.
Winterize The 3PL Warehouse
The winter months are particularly problematic if people at 3PL companies have ignored repairs for too long. That’s why the winterization efforts must start early and be thorough for the best results.
Begin by walking through the facility and looking for any signs of trouble. Pay particular attention to places where leaks, drafts, or other issues have occurred before.
Insulate all pipes. While you’re at it, check the network for leaks and repair them promptly. Then, look at the doors and windows to identify drafts. Purchase and install the appropriate sealing supplies to keep cold air out all winter long.
Work with a service provider to schedule regular maintenance on drains and gutters. That proactive measure will help prevent overflow as snow melts.
Finally, stock up on supplies such as shovels and de-icing products. Those are often hard to come by as winter gets closer, so the sooner people can purchase them for a 3PL warehouse, the better.
Winter’s Challenges Are Not Insurmountable
The obstacles associated with getting a 3PL warehouse ready for winter might seem daunting at first. However, they’re much easier to handle with appropriate planning. Getting feedback from people at all levels of the organization is often beneficial because individuals can make thoughtful recommendations based on past experiences and interactions with customers.
About The Author
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She regularly explores the impact technology has on the industrial sector.