The Holidays (And Seasonal Demand) are About to Hit: Is Your Supply Chain Prepared?

Posted - October 23, 2015

The Holidays (And Seasonal Demand) are About to Hit: Is Your Supply Chain Prepared?

Managing the supply chain to match customer demand is difficult any time of year, but peak seasons can add a number of particular challenges. During the holiday season, companies need to capture as many sales as possible without overestimating demand and ending the season saddled with excess stock. Depending on the type of product, holiday shipments start in September, October and November — and if your product isn’t on the shelves by the first week of December, you’ve lost the sale.

It has become a real challenge for shippers to meet customer demand accurately and cost-effectively. So how can shippers best prepare to meet this challenge? In the upcoming peak season, don’t just meet freight volumes — reap the full benefits of increased demand with the following tips.

1. Plan Ahead: Thorough planning is essential to handling seasonal demand, and shippers should implement a strategy early. It’s important to be continuously prepared throughout the season!

  • What are your goals for the season?
  • What supply chain gaps or potential disruptions stand in the way?
  • It’s critical to predict demand as precisely as possible. Bring in forecasts from the beginning and keep your finger on the pulse.

2. Utilize Technology: With the increasing complexity of consumer markets, predictive analytics technology can bring the right products to the right place at the right time.

  • Accurate forecasts help protect against overstock and costly expedited transportation.
  • With freight estimates you will be able to plan out your shipment schedule and understand exactly where capacity gaps exist!
  • Then you can lock in sufficient transportation capacity and meet with carriers to align service level/pricing with customer needs.

3. Increase Visibility: Once you select the carriers, suppliers and logistics partners that will help you meet your goals, the next step is determining the visibility level needed by each party.

  • The more upstream visibility you provide, the less risk you take!
  • By accessing data such as booking details, volume and origins sooner in the supply chain, your partners can plan to avoid capacity/pricing-related disruptive events.
  • Visibility is something that most companies can achieve, but what makes a supply chain truly agile is upstream visibility of highly accurate data.
  • And when it comes to meeting seasonal demand, agility is a major success factor.

4. Build Success on Benchmarks: Supply chain visibility is a gift that keeps on giving past the peak season. If you use this data to track KPIs, you can look back at hard numbers, not just previous forecasts, next season.

  • The key to success is improving on previous experiences.
  • Document how quickly, efficiently and inexpensively freight was handled so that you can optimize the process going forward.
  • Ensuring that you’re in constant communication with your partners is extremely important.
  • Be sure you select partners that are willing and able to help you plan ahead, increase supply chain visibility and continuously improve performance.

How Do You Benefit From Seasonal Supply Chain Planning? 

  • You’re better prepared, and your supply chain is better off for it.
  • If you can control your inventory better because of things you’ve learned in the past, it’s going to impact your expense line.
  • Better communication with your carrier base gets product to your customers at the right time.
  • This affects the customer’s bottom line — they’re buying more from you — and this can also improve your own bottom line profits.

A seasonal demand spike is a double-edged sword, but with proper planning and an agile supply chain, shippers can turn holiday challenges into big opportunities. In fact, for some retailers, the Christmas season alone delivers half of their annual profits! The most successful supply chains capitalize on extra demand with an agile strategy to keep service seamless and the planned capacity to carry it out.

What steps do you plan to take to prepare your supply chain for the upcoming holiday season?