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How to Prepare Your Warehouse for Holiday Peak Season

6 Strategies for a Successful Peak in Order Fulfillment Operations

Optimizing warehouse space for holiday peak season
You may be thinking, “We just wrapped holiday returns…now we need to prepare for peak?!” The truth is, it’s never too early to start. Below you will find our top tips to prepare your warehouse for peak season success. Not only are these tips useful for a successful peak season, but they are also future-proof. These tried and true best practices and solutions will help you increase capacity, get (and stay) organized, boost efficiency, and improve your bottom line this peak season and beyond!

1. Optimize Product Workflows

Operations need to optimize their warehouse for maximum efficiency. This means incorporating best practices learned from previous holiday seasons, along with newer strategies that will help maximize product flow. Some strategies include:

  • Reduce product handling, unnecessary worker movements, and travel time when retrieving parts and products.
  • Put faster-selling items closer to pickers, like at the ends of aisles, to reduce walking time.
  • Analyze SKUs to identify seasonal items and determine where they should be stored.

Optimizing SKUs according to throughput will help you determine the correct storage medium for each product. Your slowest movers are best stored in high-density shelving. Your medium movers should be stored in carton flow, while your fastest movers are often best left palletized to avoid double handling. To learn more about storing your SKUs according to throughput, check out our Guide to Understanding Throughput for Fulfillment.

2. Prepare Now for Increased Labor Costs

This doesn’t mean pay cuts or cutting staff! More than likely you will need to increase staff around the holidays. To combat the costs associated with this, there are a number of things you can do to streamline order fulfillment processes that will reduce labor costs, such as:

  • Optimize pick paths to reduce travel time.
  • Organize inventory, keeping things nice and tidy to reduce search time.
  • Implement ergonomic picking, packing, and storage solutions that reduce strain on workers. These solutions are:
    • Proven to reduce worker’s compensation claims
    • Proven to increase efficiency when SKUs are easily visible and highly accessible

3. Improve Space Utilization

This one can be quite simple if you know what to look for! Take a look around your facility - are you storing air? Are there shelves that seem a bit empty or that are perhaps holding items that aren’t easily accessed? If yes, then it’s time to optimize your space. If you’re primarily storing SKUs in pallet racking with wire deck or on flat industrial shelves, now would be the time to consider dynamic solutions that will allow you to store more SKUs in the same amount of space. In other words, stop wasting $$ storing air and creating "dead zones" where workers struggle to access or simply cannot access SKUs.Example of SKU storage dead zones

More space-efficient systems can eliminate dead zones in racking, allowing you to condense your footprint. This alone has a number of benefits. Using UNEX SpeedCell as an example, implementing more space-efficient SKU storage will result in reduced pick paths, which saves on labor as well as the cost of floor space. When you focus on improving space utilization in preparation for peak season, the benefits go beyond just the holiday season. You will save space, time, and money well into the future.

SpeedCell reduces travel time

4. Increase Storage Capacity

More orders around the holidays will inevitably lead to an increased number of SKUs you need to store for the season. You’ll need to beef up your storage capacity to accommodate this increase in SKUs. To increase capacity in your warehouse, review your inventory. Again, are you storing air? Look for dead space and see how you can better utilize it to store more SKUs. Once you review your inventory and space, consider re-slotting your SKUs. The golden rule is to do so according to throughput, as mentioned above. You may free up some additional space just by re-slotting inventory alone. Some relatively simple reorganization of SKUs will free up more space to increase capacity. Thus, giving you the ability to add more SKUs in your operation to accommodate the increased demand associated with peak season.

5. Streamline Reverse Logistics

What do you get when you see a huge influx of orders around the holidays? A huge influx of returns. We all know this, but how can you better prepare? Condense return areas, maintain organization, and the same rule applies for returned items - ensure you're using right-sized storage mediums to store the items being returned. Through proper planning, you can see a significant increase in productivity that will lead to smooth reverse logistics and dramatic cost savings around the holiday peak season.

Related Reading: Managing Reverse Logistics in a Stressed Supply Chain

6. Don’t Wait to Implement New Equipment

If you’ve been considering upgrading any of your storage solutions or if you are consistently running out of space, now is the time to make a change. To prepare for peak and any new supply chain challenges that may be on the horizon, don’t wait. It will take some time to get fully up to speed with any new equipment you implement in your facility. You need to consider the time it will take to:

  1. Research solutions
  2. Select solution(s) that will work for your operation
  3. Place an order and have it shipped
  4. Have the new equipment installed
  5. Start using your new storage solutions throughout the operation

This is going to take some time, even in a stress-free supply chain (what even is that)?! So, don’t put off improvements or new equipment purchases until you’re at or beyond capacity. Early summer is the perfect time to get your new equipment ordered so that it is fully integrated into your operation with some time to spare before peak hits.

Order Fulfillment Solutions for a Prosperous Peak Season

UNEX offers a variety of dynamic solutions that are proven to increase space utilization and storage capacity while reducing labor costs and optimizing product workflows for order fulfillment. Dynamic storage solutions pack a punch when it comes to increasing overall efficiency in an operation, so implementing this type of storage equipment can dramatically improve your peak season and beyond. Our top solutions for achieving the 6 strategies outlined above:

UNEX SpeedCell High-Density Storage

Capacity-Increasing SpeedCell High-Density Storage

  • Ideal for your slower-moving SKUs
  • Can be added directly into existing pallet racking
  • Increases storage density by up to 60%
  • Reduces labor costs by up to 40%
UNEX-SpanTrack-Wheel-Circle-1Space-saving Super Star SpanTrack Carton Flow
  • Ideal for medium to fast-moving SKUs
  • Can be added directly into existing pallet racking
  • Provides 300% more product contact than plastic wheel rails
  • Creates FIFO storage to boost space utilization and overall efficiency

UNEX FlowCell Modular Flow Racks

Efficiency-boosting FlowCell Modular Flow Racks

  • Ideal for a variety of applications like order picking, packing, staging, and shipping
  • Increase space utilization by up to 50%
  • Boost efficiency by up to 30%
  • Minimizes reaching and improves ergonomics by reducing injury and fatigue


If you’re in need of a strategy to better prepare for the upcoming peak season, our space optimization specialists are happy to help. Our team of experts will help you identify solutions that can be engineered to suit your operation’s unique needs, carrying you through this peak season and years to come. Contact us today!

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