The holiday season: a time for bringing together loved ones, cooking great feasts, and sharing gifts. It is also a time that presents us in the supply chain industry with unique challenges and opportunities.
So, just how do we ensure that the world remains connected at this special time? From ensuring last-minute gifts arrive, to keeping the food fresh and in stores when it needs to be, we must keep merchants and producers connected through this peak in global economic activity.
Demand Forecasting With Data And Technology
Holiday peak season is getting longer. Thanksgiving has brought with it Black Friday, which has extended into Cyber Monday and now Cyber Week. In fact, it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict the true start and end of the peak period, with some major promotions extending from November right through until Christmas itself.
And with supply chain challenges, more than half of industry professionals expect a state of chaos in e-commerce and shipping. So, it is no surprise that there is some level of worry given spiking fuel prices, rising inflation, manpower shortages and ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in parts of the world. These disruptions combined with normal unpredictability make good data more important than ever.
This means having an up-to-the-minute digital appreciation of your supply chain is more important than ever – allowing logistics operators to make the best possible decisions. For example, data can help to divert shipments to different ports depending on need or demand surges, as well as correcting for inclement weather.
Further supply network visibility is used to correct for inefficiencies. Last year, Eurostat reported that there are 73.3 million and 4.2 million tonnes of goods being unloaded in Poland and Lithuania respectively. This imbalance can be corrected to ease congestion at ports and ensure that there are available drivers to get containers to where they need to be.
The crucial part of preparation is demand forecasting. Using historical sales data and powerful algorithmic analysis, it is possible to make very good guesses about peaks and troughs so that suppliers can understand how much product they will need during the festive period.
Carrier Diversification And Supply Network Efficiencies
Supply chains adapted to peaks by changing how they manage inventory. Rather than housing everything in one place, port warehouses around the world can become logistics hubs and, to close the gap to the end consumer, logistics efficiencies are being enhanced to give more transport options for suppliers.
The other movement in the logistics industry has been towards a diversity of carriers. Oftentimes, there are limits to the amount of goods a carrier can transport and having multiple shipping options allows for much more flexibility in delivery speeds. Carrier diversity maximises capacity – casting the net wider as opposed to simply having a larger capacity on each individual vessel. Data and supply chain visibility have given logistics professionals a greater ability to manage their goods. They can now unload materials from their transportation directly to the customer, enabling consolidation of goods when needed by shippers, freeing up valuable warehouse space and increasing the scale of operations.
Diverse carrier/supplier relationships can present challenges in creating congestion through disjointed processes. This is an area in which digitalisation is beginning to rapidly improve relationships. Documents and manifests have become easier to transfer and it is more likely than ever that supply chain operators can use paperwork digitally to improve and streamline processes. All of which minimise disruption when last-minute choices must be made during the holidays.
So How Do We Supply The Holiday Season?
Now, more than ever, the answer is a combination of careful strategic planning and full integration of technology to ensure supply chain visibility. With visibility comes the best up-to-the-minute appreciation of the supply chain for operators to make choices but, with careful strategic planning, it is possible to ensure that operators do not become overwhelmed by preventing problems from cascading. These innovations ensure that everyone across the globe can partake in holiday cheer.