Archives for November 2016

Surging Volume In The Supply Chain: Can You Ride The Wave?

By Contributing Author | 11/23/2016 | 8:15 AM


By Steve Wilson, Vice President of Logistics Engineering, Redwood Logistics

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday now a predictable feature in November along with cold temperatures and overcast skies, it makes sense to consider an area of human endeavor that can teach us logistics professionals a thing or two about coping with the high volumes of the season. 

Of course, I’m speaking about giant wave surfing.

No, really, I mean it. We can learn a lot from those stalwart souls who show up on YouTube or your Facebook feed who surf giant ocean waves. Known by their intimidating names – Jaws, Mavericks, or my favorite, Teahupoo (also spelled Teahupo'o, and pronounced “Cho-Po”) – these giant waves appear in the winter months in the Pacific Ocean and can reach 50-plus feet high. For years, no one dared to surf them – it was thought to be suicidal to even try.

Then came Laird Hamilton, an American surfer who perfected the art of using a Jet Ski to tow him into the entry. Surfers who paddle out can’t go fast enough to catch these giant waves. It takes a powered vehicle to get surfers up to speed so that they’re not run over by several hundred tons of water.

OK, that’s interesting enough, but how does that relate to us logistics professionals?

Think of Black Friday or Cyber Monday as giant waves. Instead of surges of water, these events are surges in volume, which often dwarf the volumes normally experienced. Also, just like giant wave surfers without the right equipment, logisticians who aren’t properly prepared get no glory. Instead, they wipeout and risk being completely crushed or drowned. Given the size of these events, the stakes are high. Companies whose supply chains fail them in the start of the holiday season often have their entire year’s financial performance ruined. So, what can Laird Hamilton and other giant wave surfers teach us?

  1. Continuously prepare for the season. Hamilton trains year-round with a focus on preparing for the big wave season. He follows a rigorous training schedule and adheres to a strict diet. For logistics professionals, preparation means keeping the holiday surge in mind during the entire year. This translates into year-round planning for the big event. Amazon has been known to utilize promotions and sales throughout the year to prepare for the Cyber Monday event. It makes sense to test your system during the year, as well.
  2. Let fear do its job. While panic is never a good strategy, a healthy dose of fear will keep you focused on the task at hand and motivate you to prepare.
  3. Study the details. Giant wave surfers study the currents, ocean bottom and wave peaks before paddling out. For logistics professionals, we need to understand how the upstream order process works, from customer to release. Also key is to understand your organization’s promotional plans as well as your competitors’.
  4. Learn to wipeout. Sometimes things go wrong, keep your head cool and your eyes open. Don’t forget contingency plans.
  5. Learn from others. Among the innovations Hamilton has brought to surfing, he pioneered the use of smaller surfboards with foot straps (which provide superior board control – vital when you are flying down the face of a giant wave at 50 mph). He got the idea for foot straps from sailboarding and snowboarding. If he had never participated in activities beyond surfing, those insights would have been lost to him. Logistics professionals need to get outside the proverbial box to get new ideas. Conferences, industry roundtables and tradeshows are where these insights are found.
  6. Don’t be afraid to use outside help. Hamilton realized that without the tow from a powered watercraft, he’d never be able to paddle fast enough to catch a giant wave. Surfing purists decried the use of power tows, but it was the key enabler for his ultimate success. Logistics professionals should not hesitate to reach out to their trusted services providers to get the additional expertise and capabilities needed to meet the surge in demand.

I’ll end with a quote from Hamilton himself:

“We lay it all down, including what others call sanity, for just a few moments on waves larger than life. We do this because we know there is still something greater than all of us. Something that inspires us spiritually. We start going downhill, when we stop taking risks.”

Wilson Bio

Brace yourself! Holiday peak is here.

By Contributing Author | 11/16/2016 | 10:44 AM

By: Jyoti Kapoor, COO, Speed Commerce

The 2016 holiday shopping forecasts are rolling in and all signs are pointing to online shopping as the go-to channel for consumers. Just take a look:  

  • The National Retail Federation is predicting that more consumers will do their shopping online this holiday season, up from 6.8% from 2015.
  • Deloitte expects eCommerce sales to grow 17 – 19 %.
  • Adobe Digital Index is estimating online sales of $8.4 billion on just three days: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.

Retailers and outsourced fulfillment providers have been ramping up for months anticipating the annual spike in eCommerce sales. For most, that spike doesn’t get much steeper than the days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.

Distribution and fulfillment centers have been preparing for months for just this moment. With the countdown to Black Friday entering the single digits, here are five last-minute checks for your warehouse. 

Keep building your team

Thanks to lower unemployment and stiff competition for warehouse associates, hiring seasonal associates continues to be challenging for many retailers and distribution centers. This trend will no doubt continue right up to Christmas as your staffing needs increase as well as the expected attrition with your existing workforce.

Continue to engage with human resources and your outsourced recruitment partners to find new hires. Work to keep your existing team engaged and incentives throughout the season. The fast-paced work and longer hours may lead to lower employee morale. You can keep it up with performance incentives, open communication and verbally recognizing their efforts.

Confirm your emergency plan

Mother Nature is always the random variable when it comes to peak season. While your warehouse may have an emergency preparedness plan, when was the last time you tested or updated it?

If you don’t have time for a complete run through, there are a few key areas to confirm. Update your internal emergency procedures and associated contact lists in the event you need to put your plan in place. Confirm that you have 24/7 contact information for key utilities like electrical, phone and Internet. In the event of a power outage, you’ll need to fire up your generators. Confirm they are in working condition and you have the supplies on hand to keep them running for more than a few hours.

Ready your supplies

Can packing tape cripple your operations? It can if you don’t have it. The same goes for not having the right size box. Maybe you can ship in a different size box, but there’s a good chance it will cost you more to do so.

Double check your forecasts and confirm you have the right amount of supplies on hand, and maybe a bit extra, so you don’t delay the shipping process. In the event you need more supplies brought to the warehouse, reach out to your vendors now to make sure you can get the items you need with a quick turnaround.

Connect with carriers

UPS is forecasting that Black Friday-to-New Year’s Eve deliveries will be up more than 14 percent. FedEx is anticipating a record-breaking peak season with each of the four Monday’s between Thanksgiving and Christmas being the busiest in the company’s history.

Constant communication with your carriers is vital to making sure the orders you picked and packed within your required timeframes make it into your carriers’ network and are not left sitting on your docks. Confirm that your carriers are aware of the sales so they are prepared for the increase of packages leaving your warehouse.

Get ready for returns

While you’re making final preparations to get product picked, packed and shipped, you also need to plan on returns. Your returns department should occupy a separate section within your warehouse, not simply shoved carelessly somewhere in the receiving area or in someone’s office.

Returns need to be organized away from the rest of your merchandise so you can inspect them for any defects, perform any necessary refurbishing or repackaging, and then returned to stock or sent back to the vendor. If you have certain products requiring a specific refurbishing process (hygienic cleansing or steaming, for example), this is especially important so that your areas are clean and the necessary tools are immediately available.

Peak periods are crucial to retailers and e-tailers alike as they work to achieve annual sales quotas. There’s no such thing as over-preparing when it comes to peak season.

Jyoti Kapoor
Jyoti Kapoor is the Chief Operations Officer at Speed Commerce. He has extensive supply chain and operations management experience within technology companies, spanning multiple international and US assignments.






The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About One-Off Sound-Off

Welcome to "One-Off Sound-Off," a blog page devoted to guest commentary on all things supply chain. This is a space where industry leaders can share their opinions and expertise with the logistics and supply chain community. If you have an article or commentary you'd like to share, please consider sending a guest blog proposal to feedback@dcvelocity.com.


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