5 Ways for Retail Distribution Centers to Optimize Operations

Posted: 10/31/2019 - 01:51
Retail distribution is growing up. What was once a battle between retail online and retail with real estate is now a battle between businesses on the same online playing field. The forces of disruption and innovation keep charging the field with opportunity, but unpredictability is just as strong, with consumer behavior – and the competition that takes advantage of it - changing the game almost daily.  
How are smart retailers meeting the demands of a growing consumer base, when that base is accustomed to a single click bringing their every wish to their doorstep within only 1 to 2 days? The following five strategies can help distribution centers keep their competitive edge by protecting the core operations that turn millions of clicks into millions of wants reliably landing on doorsteps. 

1. Build a Bench You Can Rely On

Being the merchant of choice for consumers is all about reliability. For retail distribution operations, processing purchases in the specified timeframe means having the right personnel on hand to make it all happen. Efficient operations like yours need to expand when the rush is on, whether it’s the holiday you expected or demand surge you didn’t. A facilities management company can be the trusted partner you need to make sure staffing is as responsive as your operations.  
Whether it’s sweeping the floor to minimize dust, managing your pallets for maximum efficiency or sterilizing your breakroom to minimize sick time, sometimes you need an extra set of hands (or 20). By offering a flexible approach to staffing that gives you the ability to ramp up and dial back as you need, you gain a competitive advantage (so long as those team members are trained and ready to support your operations).   
Anyone can bring workers on board your operation, but how are they vetted and trained? What’s their strategy for employee retention? High turnover is a way of life in retail and facilities management alike, but that means a facilities partner should be ready with strategies for minimizing turnover and maximizing people’s talents. Look for companies with stringent hiring practices, thorough background checks, careful training and ongoing coaching. That all takes more than “boots on the ground,” that takes an experienced partner in labor logistics. 

2. Don’t Pigeonhole Your New Tech

New technologies (like the Internet of Things) are just as good at managing human resources as well as inanimate ones. Improvements in work order tracking and labor management are easier to accomplish when you achieve instant visibility. That depends as much on the tools that produce the analytics as it does on the practices that best take advantage of them.  While you put those innovations into practice for your own people, look for partners ready to deliver advantages to match.  

3. When It Comes to Breadth of Service, Go Big

The promise of outsourcing is lost if it adds administrative headaches. Multiple vendors may sell themselves on a special focus, but you aren’t looking to shift time and cost around on a spreadsheet. A facility partner should be helping you focus on your core operations. With so many facility management needs, a partner able to manage all those aspects, such as janitorial, HVAC and lighting, can truly deliver on that promise.
Facilities management companies often offer a wide variety of services. Look for a partner with experience customizing a load-out of facility services that specifically meet each retail distribution center’s needs. On the administrative side, ask for one point of contact and one bill for their services.  

4. Only Choose Vendors Who Can Grow with You

As your business grows, so will the needs of your facilities. To support the speed and reach of your expanding operational expertise, you’ll need a partner with scope and strategy to scale with you. If your facility services vendors aren’t prepared to grow with you, they certainly aren’t prepared to innovate with you. Don’t plan for the pain of shopping around for each and every service need, building more and more process for vetting new proposals and new contracts for every business upgrade. Take steps now to save yourself those hassles. Plan for smoother growth and pick a facility management partner that is ready for that plan. Further, look for partners with a national reach that can help you “set up shop” in new locales and the operational expertise to keep up with your innovation.   

5. We Saved the Best for Last, Because: Safety First

Shaving those seconds can add up to a lot of kudos for you, but no amount of excellence in operations can make up for safety issues that stop production. Downtime multiplies costs far faster than most smart moves can ever make up for. That means that the number one way to protect efficiency is with a partner that puts the safety of your people first.  
That requires a safety-first culture, and that’s more than any one procedure can accomplish. It’s the commitment to safety across the organization, at every level, and how safety is integrated into the way they do business. Look for a partner that prioritizes safety training and keeps safety top of mind throughout everything they do.

About The Author

Jeff St.George's picture

Jeff St. George is director of sales for ABM. He has 15 years of experience designing customized integrated facilities services solutions for clients across multiple industries. St. George has spent six years focusing on retail distribution clients.