Preparing your Supply Chain for peak season

Knowing the regularity of your supply chain allows you to prepare for different amounts of work which come and go at different times of the year. The busiest times of the year, the high points in the operational reports, are known as peak seasons. This is when ordering and shipping becomes stressed with an overbearing amount of activity, more than the business is used to handling in a short span of time. These seasons come and go, can be planned around, and prepared for without overcorrecting or committing too many resources to meet an unexpected amount of demand. Thorough knowledge of supply chain and logistics can be used to pre-empt the size of the peak and the energy needed to exceed it.

Two women in warehouse wearing santa hats, packing online orders for shipment.

Overflow Storage

Overflow is having more stock than necessary as a result of unexpected inventory, usually that comes during peak of activity. This can mean over-ordering too much product up front, returned products from unexpected mass returns or recalls, and backlogs of products that have yet to be shipped and are simply taking up space. Having overflow means less room for new products that will move immediately, and no space means no chance to store them.
Warehouses without overflow locations or secondary storage will end up using main floor space on backroom goods. Not having proper tracking can lead to inventory remaining stacked when it’s meant to be removed, or having poor reporting can lead to miscounted inventory that stays on shelves too long, or inventory that’s ordered far in advance and takes up space waiting for the opportunity to move it at the proper time.
You can fix these issues by implementing outsourcing through third party logistics to help streamline the warehouse operations. They can act as an intermediary warehouse for products and a shipment company before things have to come to you. It is an extra layer of separation between your warehouse and the manufacturers who might over order. Having an optimised warehouse layout reduces the chances of poor tracking when everything definitively has a place to go to. This also helps track what is being overstocked in the first place to help control future orders.

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Streamlining a warehouse can take place in improving every aspect from storage, tracking, reporting and retrieval. If product has to move out, but is trapped behind more backlogged inventory, it slows the whole process down and increases shipment times. Keep everything efficient and consistent throughout the year so that preparing for peak seasons becomes part of the regular routine.

When to Expect Peak Seasons

Peak seasons have a few dates where they stop and approximate times when they can end. It’s all up to the sway of the market. The consumers are the ones who decide when products need to rush to the shelves. But customers like regularity, they like it more than most businesses do. If they know when the good deals are coming, then the ordering will commence. The biggest seasons are Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Around those times are Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas).
It’s fair to say the biggest peak seasons all happen toward the end of the year. That means that companies have from January on to assess the effects of the last peak season and make preparations to overcome those hurdles in about ten months. This is plenty of time to make major adjustments locally, and perhaps enough time for the overall health of the supply chain to improve with continued supportive efforts going on from one end to the other.
Preparing for Peak Season means doing the legwork of research and reporting on how the last peak season went. If it went well, then make improvements where possible on existing framework and procedures.

If it went badly, it’s time to start asking questions.

  • How did it go badly,
  • and when it went wrong, what solutions were used to fix it?

One thing that went very wrong for everyone was Covid-19. The entire supply chain was delayed from end to end. Manufacturing slowed when workers couldn’t show up, shipments were delayed by trucks and trains and boats being overloaded and sent out all at once to form day-long lines at ports of entry. A more minor occurrence is holiday shutdowns. The people who work at the very base of the supply chain need time off, too. When manufacturers take a break, it means nothing new is getting made for a day or two. Or if something else is happening like a strike or major company restructuring, new products won’t get made at all. It’s busiest for these places in the weeks leading up to the holiday business rush, so they will likely get all their work done first. Last minute orders aren’t likely to be filled.
That’s why planning ahead is the best option which provides the widest access to solutions before any problems can arise. Fixing problems as they occur only leads to further delays for vendors and consumers who are all shopping at the same time for a reason. Pre-emptive planning allows for agile solutions to issues well in advance. Never let an issue settle because there’s plenty of time left in the year to solve it. Peak Season may only come once a year, but it hits hard.

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