The Peak Shipping Season of 2021 is shaping up to be even more hectic, more complex than 2020 and if you haven’t started planning for it we suggest you should get started now. The issues this year are similar to last year, but they are having even more of an impact. Anything you can do to try to overcome these issues can only work in your favour for getting your products delivered and keeping your customers happy.
Most countries are starting to open up with higher levels of vaccination than we have here in Australia and so we will be competing with their increased need. Around 80% of a recent Logistics Management survey believed that this year’s Peak Season will be more active than 2020’s.
As of writing this article Australia has had, (or is still under), quite a few lockdowns this year, increasing in the winter season. Vaccine uptake and capacity is however increasing, and additional supplies of vaccines will be available in October, so hopefully we will see a similar bounce back as well. Retailers and distributers are still playing catch up on inventory from the capacity and resources issues from last year, so some feel that we have had over a year’s worth of Peak Season and things haven’t settled in all that time.
Shortages of containers, reduced freight capacity, rolled or blank sailings, massively increased prices trouble the shipping industry. Choose air, and LTL shipments to ensure at least some stock is getting to where you need it to be for replenishment. Similarly, you should try to ensure you have more inventory than usual; avoid a JIT method for a bit of redundancy in case you can’t get it when you run out. Once your stock has successfully been imported your freight you may need to speed transit times within the country by, for example, selecting road instead of rail.
COVID lockdowns and border closures, restricts the movements of goods between States. Lockdown States have rules to reduce warehouse staff numbers for social distancing requirements and have reintroduced split shifts to try to keep orders going out the door as fast as is possible under the circumstances. Labour shortages are further impacted by Covid payments supplements which make it difficult to hire new casuals and to cover absences. Therefore, National distribution of goods continues to be plagued by lengthy delays.
Your Freight Forwarders, 3rd party Carriers, Brokers, etc., should be communicating with you regularly on what is needed in order to ensure you get your products to your customers on time. Providing you with a schedule of the last dates to ship via different modes to the various Cities / States for receiving orders prior to Christmas. If not, get on the front foot early and ask them for some information. With Covid still having an impact this peak shipping season, just like our advice from last year, you need to add in extra days to ensure your freight gets delivered on time.
Just as your suppliers need to talk to you, you need to keep up communication with your customers this peak shipping season as well. Apart from setting up an ASN (if you don’t have one) ahead of the peak shipping season, (which will take pressure of your customer service and sales staff), you should ask them to get their orders in in advance, consolidate their orders where possible, and ensure you book the pickups ahead of time.
Take advantage of any supply chain technology that your company uses to streamline operations as much as possible. Take time now if you can, before it gets too busy, to ensure the operational procedures used are as optimal as possible. Get rid of any extra steps, manual processes, redundancies. Make sure you update or cleanse your data: customer and carrier information.
Check what your data is telling you regarding drawn out timelines for your main laneways / services used and adjust your delivery time accordingly. If the data is showing you that one carrier is dropping their performance capabilities during the peak shipping season more than others, consider putting more freight toward the higher performing carriers or ship via Express Road or Airfreight rather than General Freight. Proactive analytics can help boost shipping solution versatility; agility. Review last years’ data at Peak Shipping Season but also keep monitoring on a weekly basis for insights to keep things afloat.
Freight Customer Service
Speaking of customers, having best practice customer service processes: systems, training and staff numbers is essential. Having a system that is automated assists with the extra work that the peak shipping season entails, as well as having the resources. If you can’t hire and train staff for this because you don’t have the time to invest in the recruitment and training process, or the money, then consider outsourcing for a few months. A company that specialises in this type of work (yes, that includes us here at Freight Controller), offers you scalability on this crucial task more competitively and is quickly set up for you.
Carrier Distribution Network
You may need to expand the carriers in your network to ensure your orders get moved. Looking at your data on a weekly basis and forecasting capacity crunch with carriers will assist with this. The easiest way to get assistance with this is to outsource to a company that specialises in freight management and can quickly and easily get you set up with the right carriers. Freight Management Risk Mitigation means being agile, proactive, and diversifying where and when needed.
The increase in online shopping, click & collect, Amazon dominance, will not abate. It’s becoming habit and, for some lockdown States, the only way you can shop. This leads to an increase in traffic on the roads, cars and vans, and overcapacity in last mile, residential deliveries that doesn’t occur as much with B2B linehaul trucks. This includes the extra surcharges and difficulties that goes with this: tailgate deliveries, card left, postal pickups etc.
As we said last year: if you don’t enable this type of solution for your business it will threaten your future. You should pivot your business to an E-Commerce and Click & Collect process, or if you have started to do this already, accelerate this process across your markets. If you are traditionally B2B there are good transport managment systems for this, but you might also want to open up to B2C markets as well. At Freight Controller we have both the logistics consulting expertise and the technology to help with implementing or enhancing these E-Commerce Shipping processes.
We hope that the topics broached in this article provides timely insights and talking points for your strategy meetings on how you can get ready for, and optimally manage the 2021 Peak Shipping Season. If you need outside help in any of these areas please contact us to see how we can help you stay in control of your freight this Peak Shipping Season.