Meet Jen Lang, Peak Project Planning Manager
Jen Lang is the Pitney Bowes peak planning project manager for parcels. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve had 18 teams at work on specific initiatives related to improving peak performance for delivery and returns. Jen’s job is to ensure these teams stay on track, deliver on their improvements, and remain ready to deliver to our clients. We sat down with Jen to get her thoughts on peak 2019.
Q: What has surprised you about the peak preparation process?
Jen Lang: The fact that it’s 365 days a year! This is my second year working with the teams on peak. There is no time when we are not thinking about peak. Peak is our busiest time and it is also our client’s busiest time. Everything is interlocked: us [Pitney Bowes], our client, and the end consumer. We have to have a good peak for our clients so they, in turn, have a good peak for their consumers.
Q: Can you outline some of the improvements that we have made this year to improve the peak experience for our clients?
JL: We have narrowed in and honed our standard operating procedures, particularly as it relates to weather and redirects. We all know peak is in winter and weather can be an issue. If we have to do redirects, we want to make sure that we’ve dotted all of our I’s and crossed all of our T’s so that packages get where they need to go. We also have opened two new facilities, which will help with processing the anticipated volume of packages. Those are in addition to the Greenwood supercenter that opened last Fall with 450,000 square feet, 63 shipping robots, and processing capacity of 44,000 parcels per hour.
Q: What’s the most important thing for a good peak?
JL: It comes down to communication. Communication is where you can make or break during peak. You have to be upfront with what’s going on, you have to anticipate the client’s questions or concerns, and you should also communicate all of the good that is happening.
Q: What advice do you have for clients who are going into peak and peak preparations?
JL: There’s a theme here: communication. The more that clients can tell us about what they are forecasting, the better we can plan. Similarly, clients want to know how much volume we can process in a day. It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first?
Let me give you an example: When a client lets us know that they will have a sale or promotion such as “Spend $50 – You get a free blanket!” it’s incredibly helpful. Information like that might modify their cube size. Any information can help us prepare for redirects, additional staffing, or whatever else we need to do to delight that client and their customer. Also, the sooner they let their Client Success Manager know, the better! Our Client Success Managers are having peak conversations now to forecast volume as well as special sales and promotions.
Q: Describe a ‘typical’ peak day?
JL: Starting on November 1, we have cross-functional roundtable calls twice per day where our facilities, transportation and client success managers discuss updates, concerns and share solutions and fixes. We cover each facility to review overall performance and trends. We also get very specific with updates on volume forecasting for individual clients.
Q: Any last thoughts on peak?
JL: There is even more heightened awareness on peak this year because Thanksgiving is the latest is can be, which means the number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the shortest is can be.
Also, as I had mentioned, we are thinking about peak year-round. So even while we are amid peak 2019, we are thinking of what we need to do for peak 2020! As we go through the cross-functional calls, we document the lessons learned. Returns peak is in full swing in January, so we do a comprehensive retrospective, usually in early February, and then go right into peak planning for the upcoming peak.