How manufacturers can manage Christmas supply chain pressures

Christmas supply chain pressures can easily spoil the most wonderful time of the year for manufacturers.

Failing to prepare can lead to a build up of issues that stop your business from getting products out of the door in time. But what can be done to better handle increased demand and stricter deadlines?

Here’s our view on how to deal with Christmas supply chain pressures.


Most common Christmas supply chain pressures

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that Christmas supply chain pressures are made worse by a significant increase in orders.

For manufacturers this means planning ahead to ensure adequate stock. Anticipating demand is a fine art but without solid data to guide you, your business is likely to struggle.

As well as coping with increased demand, your business is likely to be hit with an increased number of returns (an inevitable consequence of more products being delivered than at other times of the year).

More activity means more human error, which can further add to the processing of returns.

Finally, the Christmas period is likely to result in increased staff shortages due to the taking of annual leave or even bad weather disrupting travel. How can a business cope with additional demand when there are fewer staff around to execute the tasks that add up to a completed job?


Plan ahead with data analytics

The best policy to deal with increased demand is to plan ahead. But how do you anticipate required stock levels to carry out jobs without reliable data?

This is where your ERP system steps in. ERP software produces reams of data that can be used to anticipate demand and support you in getting orders out of the door.

Reviewing the demand during past Christmases with data referring to quantities, time frames and materials can help you plan more effectively.

Once you feel confident enough in your predictive analysis you might even want to be proactive and send reminders to repeat customers that they should order in good time to avoid disappointment, relieving supply chain pressures by ensuring materials are spread more evenly throughout the year.

Data can also be used to monitor the health of your devices and predict if any downtime is likely during a period of increased demand.

You can then put measures in place to more adequately handle supply as it passes in and out of your door.


Reduce manual tasks

How to deal with the increased possibility of human error during a time of high demand? One step might be to reduce the number of manual tasks your business relies on.

With your ERP software you can reduce the number of manual tasks in favour of automated processes.

Having automated reminders in place can ensure staff carry out tasks in a timely manner, but many actions and forms can be automated to remove the need for human intervention altogether.

A move towards automation can also reduce the burden of lower staff numbers during the Christmas period, especially if this removes the need for physical tasks that are particularly time-consuming (physical tasks can include anything from posting a letter or package to changing parts in a machine)

Automated processes reduce errors and save time, allowing staff at either end of the supply chain to focus on the jobs that matter – it can even help your business run with lower staff numbers.


Last-mile delivery

So far we’ve discussed better planning and greater automation to improve supply chain pressures during the Christmas holidays, but how about empowering your customers with better delivery forecasting and increased visibility?

Last-mile delivery processes have become a critical last-step in the supply chain process and involve up-to-the-minute updates for the customer on the location and status of their order.

At no point is this more critical than during Christmas. As increased demand is paired with stricter delivery requirements – particularly if a customer needs the goods to be delivered before the Christmas close-down.

Investing in ERP can significantly boost your capacity to provide last-mile delivery services to the customer, improving their experience and making it more likely that they will return to you in the New Year.

Did you find this article useful? Are you seeking further ways that ERP software can help your business manage Christmas supply chain pressures? Get in touch with us here for a no-obligation chat.

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