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Using automation to capitalise on seasonal surges

2nd Oct 2018
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The recent heatwave and England’s extended play in the World Cup gave an unexpected lift to UK retail sales in July as consumers optimism extended to their shopping habits. While now it seems like both of these miraculous events are a long-missed memory, they still serve to highlight how important it is for businesses to be able to adapt quickly to capitalise on these kind of sudden surges.

For smaller organisations who can’t afford to invest in expensive analysts or their own in-house business intelligence team, this may seem impossible. But my experience working with ambitious small businesses like Tusting and Strutt & Parker tells me that there are several simple steps which they can undertake to help them better prepare…

Ensure knowledge is distributed around the business – Seasonal surges often coincide with staff holidays. The recent July heatwave hit in the middle of the school holiday’s when many employees with families book their getaways. Similarly, the festive period is a renowned period for people wanting time off. This poses a particularly challenging juggling act for small businesses who rely on a small number of knowledgeable experts to keep their operations running. By automating certain expert processes and training a wider group in how to oversee the automated operation, businesses can ensure knowledge is distributed around the team so they don’t suffer a hard stop when Bob from packaging goes to Spain for two weeks.

Improve processes on the factory floor – Speed is everything during a sudden surge. While maintaining quality of course. New technology is now available to give human workers a helping hand. Machine learning capabilities can be built into back-end systems to help improve processes on the factory floor. This kind of software can be used to make calculations about how much raw materials are needed, to manage pattern planning and optimise workstation lay-outs to significantly improve output. This approach allows businesses to optimise their human efforts to deliver the highest quantity and quality output.  

Better demand planning and communication with your customers/partners/retailers – Sudden surges naturally make it harder to fulfil orders, especially if you are running demand planning and communication processes with your customers, partners and retailers manually. Moving to an automated system with a single view of all activity from the number of orders, value of orders, outstanding POs and payments details can mitigate many of these issues. Jo Bird, a British design and manufacturer of lifesaving and fire safety equipment storage, did exactly this to ensure it could maximise these kinds of growth opportunities; while maintaining excellent customer service.

The key to completing any of these steps successfully is to first conduct an in-depth review of operations to identify where automation can provide support. Whether that’s bottlenecks in the production, supply and distribution chains, reviewing everyday working processes or productivity levels at peak rates.

In today’s fast-paced customer-driven world, the ability to move quickly is everything. By automating certain processes to ensure that knowledge is distributed around the business, processes are more streamlined on the factory floor and ensure better communication and demand planning with customers, partners and retailers; businesses can ensure that they are better able to capitalise on seasonal surges and don’t miss out on additional revenues.

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