Peak is coming, are you ready?

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by Emily Atkins

Now is the time to line up the resources to meet the challenges of the 2023 Holiday Peak season.

“Despite the uncertainty of the market, one thing is clear – this is the time of year when everyone involved in the supply chain needs to line what they will need to cope with the challenges of the Holiday season,” says Chuck Moyer, former president of Customized Logistics and Delivery Association (CLDA)  and president of Task4Pros.

The company is an app-driven scheduling and management resource that helps business leaders plan and manage warehouse labour usage.

“There’s been much talk about the uncertainty of the economy and interest rates, but if Prime Days are an indicator, we’re in for another wild holiday season. Companies that plan and align with their supply chain partners and internal resources over the next several weeks will be better equipped to meet their customers’ demand when Holiday Peak hits.”

Moyer advises carriers to hold meetings now with their biggest customers to discuss their volume projections for the holiday season. “Well-run companies are meeting with their customers today and asking them about their forecasts for the rest of 2023 and into 2024.  Afterward, they will need to look at their entire workflow, pinpointing their responsibilities, planning accordingly, and lining up their team of outside providers or the resources to meet anticipated volumes,“ Moyer advises.

Among the questions he suggests companies consider in their planning are:

  • Do you have the warehouse space we need, and where can you turn to arrange for temporary additional warehouse space?
  • Do you have the required handling equipment to meet the anticipated demand?
  • How can you get access to the delivery vehicles you will need to meet customer expectations? And do your current providers have additional capacity if required?
  • Can you bring in enough drivers, either employees or ICs, to ramp up?
  • Do you have the resources to staff up warehouse labour and scale (up or down) as needed? And how can you add additional workers to maximize efficiencies and meet customer expectations?
  • Do you have the office staff to monitor key performance indicators, cash flow, and critical communications?

“After you do the assessment, it’s time to ask yourself what you can handle in-house and where you need to go for outside partnerships to help you meet your customers’ needs,” he advises.

Companies that line up those resources by the end of August give themselves the ability to plan and flex when the weather or supply chain delays complicate things.

“If you have your team of partners in place and in sync, then no matter what gets thrown at you, you’re going to be better off,” Moyer says.

“There’s never been a peak where we weren’t hit with curveballs. There might be an ice storm, a port issue, or even another labour strike threat. If you have your resources and partners aligned when those unexpected items suddenly hit, communication is critical. Having transparency and preplanning allows your company to adjust resources accordingly (up or down) to minimize the negative impact on your customers and the organization while maximizing profitability.”

Begin now to get contractual obligations in place for trucking partners and companies that can provide labour. “If you’re working with a regional trucking company, give them the volume you anticipate and ask if they can handle it.  Find out how many trucks they can dedicate to your company and whether they can scale up if that volume increases,” Moyer advises.

“If you have that conversation with them now, they can also plan accordingly, and you can rest assured that those resources will be available if you need them. That way, you know their capacity and whether you need to engage other providers.”

He points out that the planning process should include labour. “Labour is critical during these high-volume times,” he says.  “During past holiday seasons, some companies, especially those involved with e-commerce, have had to double the size of their workforce,” he says, pointing out that Task4Pros began handling requests for warehouse workers for Holiday Peak at the beginning of July.

“The process of securing labour resources can be challenging, so starting early and identifying the right partner will have a significant impact on your operations,” he says. “It may include background checks, drug screening, and training to meet your customer commitments and maximize your ROI.”

He points out that large e-commerce companies begin planning for the next Holiday Peak as soon as the previous one ends. But that’s not the case for many smaller companies, and searching for workers is often difficult.

“For smaller companies to recruit this type of labor on a temporary basis is difficult when most supply chain companies are competing for the same personnel,” he says. “They don’t have the staff or methodology to recruit this type of worker. They may end up calling a temp agency that gives them a 70 to 80 percent fill rate with lower-quality workers. This inevitably leads to lower performance and high turnover during the most critical times and inability to meet contractual obligations with their customers.”

He concludes his thoughts on planning now for Holiday Peak this way: “Your success, your profitability, and long-term sustainability are all dependent on you meeting your customer expectations. The only way you can do that is early planning and arranging for a high-quality team of outside providers you can depend on.

“Your relationship with your suppliers is just as important as those with your customer if you’re going to have success in the long run. You want to build a supplier team that understands your needs and expectations. You want to communicate with them proactively and expect them to do the same with you. It’s all about planning, execution, and constant communication. If you do that, you can respond to anything Peak throws at you.”