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Software for Food Distribution: The Most Effective Way to Manage Distribution Center Seasonal Inventory



If you sell turkey, then by mid-summer you’re thinking Thanksgiving. If you sell snow blowers, you plan ahead to ensure sufficient stock is in place in the winter season, so your customers are not left with empty floor space. And if you handle produce, you may have a surplus of pallets depending on your seasonal mix. In the winter, it’s pallets of apples, in the spring strawberries, in the summer its peaches, and in the fall the number of SKUs for squash quadruples. 

Distribution centers with seasonal products know volume planning for seasonal products doesn’t start with order selection, but much earlier in the process in order to identify products, their duration, the required warehouse space, and the scheduling and receiving of those products into the warehouse. The transition period is critical for the success of seasonal products. 

Seasonal inventory is comprised of products that are either not available on the market during certain times of the year, or are available throughout the year, but with significant fluctuations in available quantities and price. Managing this kind of inventory can be challenging because rather than managing a repetitive supply and demand with smaller fluctuations, you need to manage intermittent supply and demand with significant fluctuations. 

Effectively managing your seasonal products starts and ends with effective software for food distribution, specifically your Supply Chain Management System – ERP, WMS, and Business Intelligence. Forecasting and planning with ERP to identify the products, lead times and supply/demand cycles. Your system infrastructure will typically include business intelligence tools to harness your data and create meaningful information leading to better decision making.

WMS is among your core software for food distribution solution because it optimizes your warehouse space and efficiently moves seasonal inventory in and out of the warehouse. From determining where products are stored, directing movement to replenish pickable locations, to shipping out to your customers, WMS with system-directed movement based on your business rules is a cost-effective way to manage your seasonal stock in the following ways:

  • Volume-based system-directed putaway: Business choices to dedicate product to a single pick floor area or dynamic to temporary locations.
  • System-directed replenishments to pickable locations or haul point based on order demand. 
  • Ability to bypass the dedicated pick during high season.
  • Off-site storage system visibility: Properly rotate and replenish warehouse when required.
  • Automatically update product velocity for storage based on shipment history. 
  • Business rules that dictate efficient order selection for picking with seasonal products.
  • Flag new product to ensure proper data in the system.
  • Scan GS1 and UPC for proper product and packsize identification, along with product related data such as Lot, GTIN, date and weight. 

With effective WMS software for food distribution, the end result is a streamlined process that meets your seasonal demands. For more information, consult AFS Supply Chain WMS expert, Fran Rifkin.