The holiday season is fast approaching and many retailers are preparing for the busy shopping days ahead. More sales orders also mean increased shipping and, often, shipping delays. This can be a make-or-break time for many businesses to ensure that customer packages arrive on time. Sadly, external factors that may disrupt your clients' shipments could lead to their placing blame on your company, and causing them to potentially look elsewhere for the services you provide.
To ensure that your holiday shipping services are exemplary this holiday season, it's important to be prepared. There are many obstacles as a result of global supply chain issues that could potentially affect your product shipping services. This applies to both your small and major retail clients which may result in delivery delays to the end consumers. The following information provides tips on how you can plan ahead and prepare your manufacturing facility, warehouse, or 3PL for the upcoming holiday season and excel at customer satisfaction and service.
What Can Lead to Holiday Shipping Delays at the Warehouse?
The timeframe prior to the winter holidays is considered peak season for shipping packages and delivering them on time. Product demand increases sharply due to consumers' holiday shopping patterns, therefore increasing on-time shipping demands. As a result, retailers must be sure that they have enough products on store shelves, available to ship from their distribution facilities, warehouses, and 3PLs. If your facility plans ahead and prepares in advance, you can thwart many common shipping delays and ensure that packages are delivered on time. Your distribution center can also hit order fill goals - which is a win-win for both your company and your customers.
Holiday Shopping Delivery Challenges to Expect This Year
Preparing your warehouse or 3PL to expect the "typical" holiday rush is no longer sufficient. Due to new and lingering issues, the supply chain market is changing daily, making it more difficult to ensure that your peak season forecast will ring true. Issues that can affect the supply chain, causing major delays, include:
- Consumers' holiday shopping patterns keep changing
- Supply chain bottlenecks are expected to continue (backed-up ports, container backlogs, protests, strikes, rising fees, weather-related delays, etc.)
- Inventory overload or short supply can happen due to changing demand forecasting because of global supply chain issues
- Ongoing labor shortages
- Unpredictable domestic and foreign affairs
- The rise of e-commerce package shipping surcharges
- The unpredictable economy can affect any business
- The emergence of new COVID variants or other viruses
5 Ways to Predict Warehouse Volumes to Meet Holiday Shipping Deadlines
So the question is, with so many challenging supply chain variables: How do you prepare a holiday shipping strategy to meet delivery deadlines and avoid delays? Consider the following information sources to get your distribution center ready so that your shipments make their final destinations in a timely manner:
1. Data, Data, Data
Data is the backbone of any successful business, including manufacturers and distribution centers. Inventory management and forecasting are all about understanding your historical numbers from previous years. That data enables you to make informed decisions for the future and how to ship items to be delivered on time.
For example, the information can guide you regarding how much space to leave on warehouse shelves during peak season and how much inventory your facility holds for distribution. Your warehouse management system (WMS) software should provide data over years past and supply more detailed forecasting about upcoming holiday season demand.
2. Involve Your Employees and Stakeholders
Do not discount input from your team members in every department for your shipping strategy - stay informed! Internally, accounting and operations can provide you with excellent insight, aiding in a better understanding of inventory levels at different times of the year. External stakeholders, like suppliers and customers, have firsthand knowledge of potential shipping delays and issues that you may not be privy to, providing great insight into your future inventory volumes.
3. View Inventory Data in Real-Time
With ASCTrac - ASC software's real-time inventory tracking system - your warehouse, manufacturing facility, or 3PL can monitor in-house stock levels against previous estimates so potential problems can be resolved quickly. Efficient WMS software from ASC also prevents future issues by supplying an accurate picture of every product on hand in your warehouse at any given time. In this way, you are never short of inventory. This occurs all without wasting time and money through inefficient systems that are difficult to use.
4. Takes Notes Every Day, Not Just During the Holiday Season
The most valuable lesson you can learn as a supply chain manager comes from experience. You cannot simply take notes on your business performance and stats during peak seasons or periods of high inventory. It doesn’t provide you with an accurate portrayal of your overall year. Your team members will only be able to make accurate predictions for future peak season orders delivered if they know where demand was during the entire year.
Don’t forget, memories fade with time. To help keep track of all aspects related to supply chain market activity and buying patterns from customers: shipping percentages and punctuality; order levels; and labor hours, it's important that you refer back to your notes daily and from years past. Better yet is a dashboard that can visually show you the peaks and valleys related to volume and other key performance metrics.
5. Utilize Technology to Your Advantage to Meet Holiday Shipping Deadlines
You can improve your inventory management with the help of technology. Consider using mobile carts, RFID tags and readers, and WMS software to track inventory flow in real time. That way, when peak season comes around again, you are prepared to process inventory efficiently to avoid holiday shipping delays and meet holiday delivery deadlines.
In today’s competitive market, it is imperative to have a well-organized warehouse or 3PL distribution facility. With the help of some creative strategies to evaluate inventory volumes during peak season, you can cut down time spent managing inventory. This ensures data accuracy on future forecasts and on-time destination delivery no matter what supply chain issues may arise.
Prepare a Strategic Plan and Budget Earlier, Rather Than Later
Customer support is key during the holiday season: If you want to successfully make it through the holiday season, excellent customer service is crucial. Most shipping issues happen during this time including lost or delayed shipments, damaged items, and returns, no matter how well your warehouse performs. Always concentrate on quality control, operational efficiency, and ensuring the satisfaction of your clients and their end customers.
Holiday Shipping Deadlines Will Shift. Your warehouse shipping manager should be prepared to ship items earlier than at any other time of year. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of all of your shipping carriers. This way you can avoid becoming sidelined with unanticipated problems resulting in shipments arriving at their final destination later than expected. Communication with your carriers is very important in estimating product shipping times and ultimate delivery to consumers, even if it takes your employees extra time.
Of interesting note, global air freight demand dropped 9% in July 2022 as compared to July 2021, according to an article by DC Velocity. However, it still remains historically high - up 11% over last year - so budget wisely. Don't forget to take into account other factors like severe weather or environmental conditions that could lead to service delays to specific regional or national companies.
Make Sure You Have Enough Packaging Supplies. Over the past two years, supply chains have experienced a shortage of packaging supplies. The availability is expected to remain tight through the 2022 holiday shipping season.
The supply chain climate should not be ignored, according to John Blake, senior director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice in a recent Supply Chain Dive article. “Currently we're seeing six months [lead time] where it used to be four to six weeks,” he noted. “Things like labels have 12 to 16-week lead times, where it used to be four to six.” In order to guarantee that your distribution center can meet customer expectations for packages to arrive, talk with your suppliers now and determine where their production and shipping process will be in two or three months.
Take Care of Your Employees, Current and New. Distribution centers are always bustling with activity, even more so during peak season. Without an actively engaged workforce, you could soon find your warehouse or 3PL facing major disruptions. It is a must to not only expect to keep up with your competitors but to excel further.
One way is by offering appealing benefits, programs, and incentives that will attract new warehouse workers and retain existing employees. This is crucial to keep your operations running efficiently during the busy holiday delivery season when hours of work tend to be longer than normal. Retailers increase their product demand and want uninterrupted inventory and shipping flow during this time. Make sure your 3PL or warehouse has enough staff to meet productivity goals to achieve increased customer and client satisfaction.
The days of running out to buy a gift at the store just before the holidays are nearly over since many people rely on online shopping, doing so months in advance. However, it is not too late to prepare. Even though many consumers already began shopping in July, there is still time to plan for and estimate shipping deadlines. Reallocate budgeted money to labor and shipping costs so you don’t find your distribution facility in a bind.
Looking for Help? Don’t Forget Your WMS Software to Combat Shipping Delays!
Daily warehouse management tasks are very time-consuming and tedious. However, if you work with adaptive and progressive warehouse management system software from ASC, you will enjoy the ease of and access to inventory tracking as well as shipping and accounting software to minimize hassles and delays.
ASCTrac is a full inventory management solution that will help you to streamline your business processes now and for years to come. With integrations available for API and online shopping cart interfaces, automation has never been easier! You will increase both operational efficiency and on-time shipping while decreasing unnecessarily wasted labor hours that may occur when using a lesser quality software system. ASCTrac can pinpoint inventory through real-time tracking, and destination arrival, and integrates with shipping software to send updates immediately to any internal and external parties.
Your customers can even plan their future inventory levels based on reporting features from ASCTrac. This holiday shipping season, more companies are shifting from JIT (Just-In-Time) strategies to a JIC (Just-In-Case) focus on maintaining a higher level of availability. This includes having an increased number and variety of products so inventory is readily available for any emergency shipment which may arise.
To maximize benefits and avoid peak season delivery delays, warehouses, manufacturers, and 3PLs should communicate early and often with their client base and suppliers. Discuss holiday shipping deadlines, shipping software, estimated arrival dates, and upcoming promotions. Also, communicate about yearly Black Friday and Cyber Monday standards to make sure everyone is prepared for a successful end of the year! For more info on how ASC Software and ASCTrac can help your company in avoiding shipping delays and better manage inventory, contact us today.