Managing peaks with your supply chain is a long-standing challenge for retailers and manufacturers alike - with the biggest test often falling in the days, weeks, and months leading up to Black Friday.
With £6.77 billion sales predicted from e-tailers alone this year, Black Friday has proven both a blessing and a curse: with the potential to be a revenue booster and logistical nightmare.
In 2014 there was an unprecedented pressure of demand on Black Friday. In response, rather than the one day or weekend event promoted in the past, more retailers are now choosing to lengthen the discount period to a full week of sales.
Logistics lies at the heart of this decision.
Major manufacturers and retailers benefit from a longer period to control the supply chain, alleviate shipping bottlenecks, and deliver on promises.
However, sales peaks can also follow the publicity of a product, scheduled sales drives, and seasonal trends – so it’s not just Black Friday logistics that need a strong supply chain management provider who can respond to high volume and high-value demand.
You need to be looking ahead to make sure you have the strongest practices in place for peak-time logistics that help you stay in the black all year round.
- Maximise Productivity with Cross Training
At the height of demand, you’ll need your teams working at their full potential. To do this, they should jump into whatever role that’s needed at a time – with broad training to ensure a balanced workforce.
A logistics provider should have a multi-skilled staff if they're planning for peaks, with regular training in place throughout the year.
In addition, when agency staff are needed in the lead up to peaks, their work should focus on low-impact tasks. Efficient utilisation of labour will ensure your supply chain management provider can always deliver results under pressure.
- Streamline Processes with Cross Docking
Crossdocking is the ability to adjust supply to demand at vessel ETA, rather than at origin, resulting in reduced supply chain costs and improved customer service. The best Black Friday logistics use cross-docking to help keep shelves well-stocked – and customers happy - regardless of volume.
A logistics provider can provide quick routing of goods from supplier to retailer through their extended network. With a strong communications infrastructure, you can avoid material handling with outbound deliveries to save both time and money.
For a sign of strength, look for a supply chain management provider that already designs transloading and crossdocking solutions for the world’s largest companies – and so has existing systems in place and the flexibility to fulfil your needs.
- Boost your Budget with Supplier/Buyer Consolidation
If a retailer needs goods from different suppliers, then buyer consolidation helps to streamline freight delivery. Instead of separate and diverse smaller shipments, a supply chain can identify goods to travel together from the port of departure.
Smart resource management with integrated planning can then ensure higher efficiency and cost-savings.
Moreover, if your Black Friday logistics provider handles multiple large accounts, then they can share resource across projects in their warehousing.
That way, they’ll have greater capacity to react to higher volumes.
- Lessen the Load with Added Value Services
A 3PL partner can maximise your Black Friday logistics management with in-house services that streamline your process.
Kitting and packaging can relieve pressure at the end destination during seasonal peaks. For example, the latest games console may come in a package deal, which can be pre-packaged in your provider’s warehousing. Offers can be stickered, POS displays arranged, and bonus gifts aligned with relevant items.
On top of that, reverse logistics solutions – which are particularly helpful for technology companies – will ease post-sale demand so that returns can be handled efficiently to protect your bottom line.
Supply chain planning, warehouse management, and optimized distribution networks all ensure your shelves are kept well stocked without a great need for costly storage of inventory.
So, if you’re reassessing your supply chain management following Black Friday, look for a logistics provider with the strength to flex in peak periods.