Top 4 industry-leading supply chain management practices for the holidays


iStock_000020830928_Large-1The holiday season can be a stressful time for just about everyone. However, those in charge of maintaining and managing a company's supply chain can feel more seasonal pressure than the rest of us. These are the folks who ensure that the gifts we've ordered arrive on time, which entails more than many realize. Supply chain managers are under considerable stress with the holiday season approaching. However, by heeding a few tips and planning ahead, these employees can significantly streamline processes and reduce their stress around the winter months.

Here are the industry’s best tips and tricks to keep supply chains humming along this holiday season:

1) Have a supply chain strategy in place ahead of time

One of the best steps supply chain managers can take to arm themselves for the seasonal rush is to plan ahead. Having a responsive, flexible strategy in place for managing and maintaining the supply chain can not only help the business keep up with current demands, but be ready for forthcoming consumer needs. Retail Online Integration contributor Alex Paskoff recommended that managers try to forecast the season's conditions and do their best to plan ahead for any supply shortages, expedited shipments or periods of severe weather that could impact the supply chain.

"Creating a lean, agile supply chain for the holidays allows retailers to adapt to volatile swings in demand, deliver faster and guarantee product availability for any purchasing channel," Paskoff wrote.

2) Prioritize critical tasks

Another essential point that supply chain managers must keep in mind during this season is the fact that business processes - and the workplace as a whole - will be in a different state during the holidays. Supply Chain Management Training contributor Richard Wilson noted that much of this is due to seasonal stress and increasing customer demands compounded by the fact that many employees will take time off in the coming months. With these conditions in mind, managers must prioritize the tasks and activities that are critical to ensure that they are completed on schedule. Less important side projects can be tabled until after the holiday rush.

3) Leverage an automated solution

In a recent piece for Supply​ Times, contributor Zachary Kremian highlighted several unique items that add to Amazon's success in the supply chain management space. One of these is the fact that the e-commerce giant leverages highly automated systems along with a lean workforce to keep its supply chain in line.

Companies can take a page from Amazon's playbook, and utilize supply chain management and warehouse management software during the holiday season and throughout the year. These systems can help ensure that orders placed by customers are received and fulfilled according to the business's schedule. With this software in place, supply chain managers can worry less about manually carrying out these processes, and can focus more on their other mission-critical holiday-related duties.

4) Prepare the return process

Holiday preparations aren't just about buying gifts before the end of December. Supply chain managers should also prepare for the post-holiday rush, most of which surrounds the return and exchange of merchandise. Including this in the company's preparations can help ensure that things go smoothly both during the holidays and afterwards.

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