Christmas is fast approaching and if you haven’t done so already now is the time for making a list - and checking it twice! For warehouse managers and anyone involved in logistics or materials handling that means ticking off all the preparations needed to cope with peak seasonal demand.

Cat® Lift Trucks offers 10 top tips to ensure your operation will run smoothly and efficiently.

1. Forecast your sales

OK, forecasting is a very obvious thing to mention, but the more time you invest in it, the better prepared you will be. This is the worst time to let customers down with late deliveries or unfulfilled orders. Study your orders from previous years and use these to make soundly based predictions.

2. Set up for the season

Ensure that you have enough space, if needed for extra stock and that your warehouse layout is organised for maximum efficiency. If there have been points of congestion in your workflow, now’s the time to sort them out. Rearrange stock to give quick access for your order pickers to the Christmas season’s fastest movers.

3. Schedule realistically

When demand for stock is high, make sure you allow extra time for orders to be fulfilled by your suppliers. They will be busy too. And manage your customers’ expectations by encouraging them to order early and outlining clear deadlines on all your communications.

4. Talk to your supply chain partners

Communicate clearly and regularly with your carriers and suppliers, so that they can then prepare to meet your businesses increasing needs for Christmas. Find out, as soon as possible, whether they have sufficient capacity – and adapt your plans if they don’t.

5. Take care of your seasonal staff

If you employ seasonal staff over the Christmas period, make sure they receive sufficient safety training. With so many workers new to the job, more staff around the warehouse and so much pressure to meet the season’s demands, there could potentially be many more accidents. Give extra safety training to all personnel, including pedestrian staff working near to your forklift trucks and increase supervision generally around all warehouse equipment.

6. Service your lift trucks

Reduce the chances of forklift trucks and warehouse equipment breakdowns by carrying out – and possibly bringing forward – their routine servicing. The same applies to all equipment on your site. Keep a stock of any important and frequently needed spare parts. .

7. Expand your forklift truck fleet

In order to help increase productivity, it may be a good idea to hire extra forklifts or warehouse equipment for the Christmas period. Ask your materials handling supplier about casual hire of extra trucks to help increase your output and book them in to guarantee availability.

8. Stock up on basic supplies

As Christmas is holiday season, suppliers of forklift truck fuels may take a holiday, in which case you should order extra supplies in advance. It is also worth thinking of other basic supplies that might run out, like packing tape and ordering extra of these too so your warehouse staff are well prepared.

9. Make a back-up plan for bad weather

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Probably not, as that can disrupt deliveries and prevent your staff from reaching work. A wet Christmas, with flooding, could be just as bad for business – perhaps even cutting off your site’s power. Consider everything that could go wrong and make contingency plans to inform all warehouse staff on what you would do in these situations

10. Draw up next year’s checklist

Keep a record of what works well and what problems occur. You will always learn something that helps with the next seasonal peak. It will help you to forward plan any materials handling improvements, both large and small - perhaps including new forklift trucks and reconfigured warehouse racking.

Medium level order picker NOM10P