Handle with Care: Holiday Season Supply Chain
Seeing all the madness unfold in any major retail outlet during the holiday season makes you forget the insanity that happens behind the scenes in the global supply chain.
As ModusLink’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Lorcan Sheehan explains, however, most of that chaos occurs well before first snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere.
“By and large, for a lot of supply chain companies, what happens in the retail end is at the very end of the supply chain,” Sheehan explained. “The planning for the holiday season is well under way, and should be in place at that stage.”
TOP 5 ECOMMERCE TIPS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
Sound preparation is a supply chain manager’s best friend in dealing with a hectic holiday season. Most companies begin their holiday season supply chain research as early as May.
“Managers need to work with their retail and channel partners to get products through manufacturing well ahead of actual demand,” Sheehan said.
“That really allows people to prepare for volume ranges as they go into the production cycle to that they can get their products manufactured and available on the shelves when people walk in the stores.”
Like most supply chain management professionals stationed around the globe, Sheehan believes that there are lessons to be learned from the Japan disaster. Risk management awareness is at an all-time high, and helps holiday season supply chains in particular.
“We’ve seen companies change from focusing on manufacturing locations to going two or three layers deep in their component suppliers to better that understand and map what the particular risk would be for a political event or a natural disaster,” Sheehan explained.
Part of risk management deals directly with inventory management. During the summer of 2008, when the global economy began slowing down, companies had already put in place their supply chain and manufacturing procedures, and had too much supply to deal with a weak holiday season demand.
It’s there that innovative supply chain management takes over.
“How can we create a situation where we’re not committing to the final configuration of a particular product to make sure that we’re a lot more responsive to other people’s demand?” Sheehan asked.
Finding the answer to that question will put some companies in a better position when the economy is fully recovered.
“As you go through the cycle on an annual basis, the same way companies learn from a risk management element, a lot of companies have learned from their experience on retail cycles and seasonality the last few years,” Sheehan said.
“Those that have learned and have taken the appropriate actions will be in the best position moving forward.”
DHL Claim Multi-Sector Collaboration Key to Fighting COVID
Since January, global logistics leader DHL has distributed more than 200 million doses of the COVID vaccine to 120+ countries around the globe. While the US and UK recently rolled out immunisation plans to most citizens, countries with less developed infrastructure still desperately need more doses. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which currently has one of the highest per-capita immunisation rates, the government set up storage facilities to cover domestic and international demand. But storage, as we’ve learned, is little help if you can’t transport the goods.
This is where logistics leaders such as DHL make their impact. The company built over 50 new partnerships, bilateral and multilateral, to collaborate with pharmaceutical and private sector firms. With more than 350 DHL centres pressed into service, the group operated 9,000+ flights to ship the vaccine where it needed to go.
With new pandemic knowledge, DHL just released its “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience” white paper, which examined the role of logistics and supply chain companies in handling COVID-19. As Thomas Ellman, Head of Clinical Trials Logistics at DHL, said: “The past one year has highlighted the importance of logistics and supply chain management to manage the pandemic, ensure business continuity and protect public health. It has also shown us that together we are stronger”.
Multisector partnerships, DHL said, enabled rapid, effective vaccine distribution. While international scientists developed a vaccine in record time—five times faster than any other vaccine in history—manufacturers ramped up production and logistics teams rolled out distribution three times faster than expected. When commercial routes faced backups, logistics operators worked with military officers to transport vaccines via helicopters and boats.
In the UAE, the public-private HOPE Consortium distributed billions of COVID-19 doses to its civilians as well as other countries in need by partnering with commercial organisations such as DHL. For the first time, apropo for an unprecedented pandemic, logistics companies made strong connections with public health and government.
“While the race against the virus continues, leveraging the power of such collaborations and data analytics will be key”, said Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer DHL and Head of DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. “We need to remain prepared for high patient and vaccine volumes, maintain logistics infrastructure and capacity, while planning for seasonal fluctuations by providing a stable and well-equipped platform for the years to come”.
How Do We Sustain Immunisation?
By the end of 2021, experts estimate that we need approximately 10 billion doses of vaccines—many of which will be shipped to areas of the world, such as India, South Africa, and Brazil, that lack significant infrastructure. This is perhaps the greatest divide between countries that have rolled out successful immunisation programmes and those that have not. As Busch noted, “the UAE’s significant investments in creating robust air, sea, and land infrastructure facilitated logistics and vaccine distribution, helping us keep supply chains resilient”.
Neither is the novel coronavirus a one-time affair. If predictions hold, COVID will be similar to seasonal colds or the flu: here to stay. When fall comes around each year, governments will need to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible to ensure long-term immunisation against the virus. This time, logistics companies must be better prepared.
Yet global immunisation, year after year, is no small order. To keep reinfection rates low and slow the spread of COVID, governments will likely need 7-9 billion annual doses of the vaccine to meet that mark. And if DHL’s white paper is any judge of success, multi-sector supply chain partnerships will set the gold standard.