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Santa’s Supply Chain: The Reality of Seasonal Order Fufillment

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If you think Santa has an impossible delivery job on his hands at this time of year, try working in order fulfillment...

Sure, there’s some seasonal magic in there. But when it comes to the heavy lifting that makes the big man in the red suit look good through the holiday season, it's the warehouse, distribution workers that can't afford to put their feet up!

Christmas Tree in Warehouse

Holiday Spirit vs. Seasonal Surge

The seasonal order fulfillment peak happens to retailers and our industry every year, of course, but is never without its surprises. There’s a limit to the preparations that can be made as service providers try to balance the cost of additional labor with the increasing expectation of consumers.

Last year the big delivery companies were caught with their pants down and plenty of packages had to wait until after the holidays.

For 2014 they've bulked up their workforce to deal with expected record volumes - peak day is expected to be December 18th, fact fans, when UPS expects to deliver around 17 million packages - but there will always be unexpected kinks and order surges that test the system to breaking point.

The bottom line is that many customers are moving a significant portion of their holiday spending to online ordering. This means a later spike in fulfillment and delivery requirements, putting increased stress on the supply chain during December.

Are you prepared?

Peak Performance at Peak Season

What a successful peak season comes down to is a mixture of thorough preparation and the ability to hit peak performance at just the right time.

Tried and trusted processes should handle the bulk of the work, with experience and creative solutions driving fulfillment of any orders that buck the system. A creative fulfillment team will be able to handle a lot of what the holiday season throws at them, be it weather delays, product

It's impossible to guarantee that every order will make it through at the exact time it's required, but the right supply chain partner will go to extraordinary lengths to make sure your business comes out the other side of the season looking like a hero in the eyes of your customer. That's a brand-building quality, as we've talked about before, and goes a long way to establishing the trust that will see people coming back to your business year after year.

As you look to fine-tune your supply chain operations for 2015 and beyond, consider whether you have that precise partnership that your business demands and your customer deserves. Perhaps it's not exactly the same as Santa Claus having your back, but a responsive, committed 3PL is the next best thing!