Supply chain peak season technology aids supply chain leaders in understanding their operations, unlocking insights, reviewing performance, and much more. In conjunction with the rise of e-commerce and ongoing demand for more products, faster service, and better supply chain performance, the entire year begins to take on the characteristics of supply chain peak season which traditionally has occurred during the time period after Labor Day through returns season in January. Leaders need to understand the signs when current systems are ill-equipped, what types of systems can improve peak season readiness, and a few tips for updating systems ahead of the next peak season and throughout the coming year.
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Signs Your Systems Are Ill-Equipped for Supply Chain Peak Season
When supply chain systems lack efficiency, problems began to arise. Typical issues associated with ill-equipped supply chain systems for the upcoming peak season include:
- Failure to fulfill daily orders and orders on-demand, i.e., lengthy cycle times. Failures to fulfill orders on the fly will inherently result in additional delays, backlogs, bottlenecks, and upset customers.
- Inability to plan for demand within short time frames. Peak season is often associated with a shortened timeframe between order demand, delivery, and customer expectations. Unfortunately, the hottest trends do not become evident until after Thanksgiving, so the ability to respond in kind and on time is essential to success.
- Problems arising from poor labor management. Poor labor management will also result in additional delays in order fulfillment and warehouse problems.
- Higher employee turnover rates due to complicated, hard-to-use systems. As labor strains become evident, employee turnover rates will increase, and leaders may notice an uptick in the number of complaints related to supply chain management systems.
- Uncertainty about how your current operation performs, i.e., a lack of data. Without data, supply chain leaders base all decisions on an assumption, significantly increasing risk for supply chain disruption.
Of course, peak season, while most commonly associated with the holiday season, can vary widely depending on the specific nature of the industry for the respective retailer. Consider this example.
As explained by Logistics Management, “Fanatics, the distributor of licensed sports apparel and accessories, is an example of an e-tailer with unconventional peaks around important sporting events like the Final Four and the start of NASCAR. At those times, average to peak demand can increase by a factor of 10—from 50,000 to more than 500,000 orders per day.”
Supply Chain System Alphabet Soup and Its Value
Supply chain systems augment one another and improve value and brand rapport when used in tandem. A full lineup of WMS, WES, TMS, procurement management, returns management, YMS, OMS, and other systems are critical to successful peak season supply chains. The number of acronyms is extensive, and a supply chain solution exists for any need. Supply chain leaders need to understand what solutions perform in accordance with goals, which solutions are adding value, how to maximize existing solutions, and what is required to attain the next level of success.
How to Update Your Systems Ahead of Peak Season
There are many opportunities for advancement within the supply chain, and supply chain peak season represents one of the most significant opportunities for all industries. Instead of dwelling on the specifics of supply chain problems and readiness steps, supply chain leaders should follow these basic, foundational practices for updating systems and ensuring their supply chain peak season readiness:
- Re-evaluate your picking strategies to determine your needs from the new system in advance of peak season.
- Always look for a system based on its ability to flex for peak season, designed for below peak performance, and capable of rapid scalability.
- Use automation where appropriate.
- Recognize the balance between labor and warehouse management or supply chain management platforms.
- Consider working with a third-party, such as Veridian, to review supply chain system and platform functions, compatibility, limitations, configuration, and much more.
Evaluate the Condition of Your Organization and Its Peak Season Readiness
It is time to rethink the supply chain strategy for your warehouses and distribution center network. The traditional practice of waiting until data comes after an outcome is inefficient in today’s competitive landscape. Supply chain peak season is quickly becoming a year-round phenomenon. While automation and advanced technologies, like artificial intelligence or robotics, seek to improve supply chain efficiency and lessen the demand on available resources, these technologies are primarily underdeveloped for the full-scale “Robot Apocalypse” of Hollywood. Supply chain leaders need to start thinking ahead, looking to 2020 as the year to embrace digital transformation and bring their operations into the next generation.