Discover how to adapt your logistics and supply chain operations for multiple waves of a peak.

When is the peak season for your business? While the answer depends on your industry, products, customers, and other factors, chances are that most organisations across the board would have a different answer today than five or certainly 10 years ago. The new normal for many businesses is waves of peak throughout the year. Why? The explosion of e-commerce and the increasing importance of customer experience has dramatically changed buying patterns and delivery expectations.

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More peaks fewer plateaus!

One of the biggest challenges transport and logistics companies face is the evolving retail cycle. Traditionally, we could expect peaks with Christmas and then the Day of Goodwill. Now, retailers have embraced a steady calendar of events. Sales begin long before Christmas with Black Friday, and Cyber Monday… and the post-holiday sales roll into other sales events like Back to School.

From a logistics perspective, the peak is smoothing out and many organisations aren’t coping well with the requirement for a constant level of scalability. What options do businesses have? Expand drop-shipping or parcel capabilities? Scramble to find extra drivers? Use a gig-economy model for unexpected peak periods? Or simply work longer hours in an attempt to cope with the increasing demand?

How to get more efficient as supply chains grow more global and complex 

Fortunately, there are solutions that can help improve operational efficiency and the smooth flow of goods to put businesses in a better position to deal with peak periods.

1. Improve visibility

Closing the gap in visibility starts with determining goals and assessing your ability to meet those goals. Consider the following: Does an existing system meet current and future needs for all necessary modes of transportation? Does it interface well with other systems and can you easily add future interfaces? And, most importantly, does the system accommodate your business process? If a business can get this foundation right, it will be starting in a good place for all of the other details. Most supply chains use a variety of logistics service providers, transportation service providers, and other partners. As soon as the chain of custody of a particular order or shipment transfers to another party, the degree of visibility changes. As a result, many companies have deployed or are considering a multi-party supply chain ‘Control Tower’ through which all activities are coordinated and controlled.

2. Optimise Your Supply Chain Operation – and then optimise again.

The “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” attitude toward supply chain management only works well for so long. Particularly for peak times, there is a clear opportunity to be constantly reviewing and refining processes and procedures that are not optimal. This starts with having quality data – and putting it to work. For example, if a vehicle breaks down on route to make a delivery, often companies call on the nearest driver to step in. While that driver might be closest, adding an additional drop-off could impact deliveries down the line. Instead, the use of data and analytics in this situation can identify the best available driver to step in, with minimal impact on other orders.

3. Mobile solutions provide benefits from the first to the last mile

Mobile capabilities can help to streamline daily processes and manage shipping spikes across multiple industries, whilst improving customer experience and satisfaction during the supply chain operation. With active messaging, dock staff can manage and move products faster through the warehouse, and mobile solutions even have the ability to group together multiple packages for a single customer shipment. Further cross-dock capabilities allow for a guided loading process while simultaneously building a manifest for the driver through item scans, as well as providing real-time item tracking on freight movements. This visibility allows sellers to closely monitor inventory levels and respond to issues and opportunities immediately. Businesses can no longer plan for the peak to start in October – with market forces fuelling peak after peak throughout the year, now is a good time to consider where to gain efficiency in your supply chain. •

Written by Neil Larkens

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