The holiday season is nearly here and if your logistics firm is trying to improve its operational efficiency during this time, it's important to take some time now to make sure all your ducks are in a row. That should certainly include ensuring your purchasing department and decision-makers are fully aware of the challenges that lie ahead, and have a plan to clear any hurdles that may arise.

As such, they will need to keep the following issues in mind throughout the holiday season planning process:

1) You need to forecast need as accurately as possible

In general, your procurement department likely does a good job of managing purchases and planning, but the holidays are hardly a time when general rules apply, according to Supply & Demand Chain Executive. Consequently, it's vital to do as much homework as possible to determine hiring trends from past holiday seasons and take into account which items you may order, if any, are going to be in particularly high demand.

Procurement becomes a lot more complicated during the holiday season.Procurement becomes a lot more complicated during the holiday season.

2) Start your conversations with suppliers and carriers now

Once you have a good idea of what your holiday procurement needs are going to look like, it's time to start talking to the companies that supply the items you buy, as well as the shippers that carry those products from Point A to Point B, Supply & Demand Chain Executive recommended. This way, you can see what efforts will be feasible and get a better picture of everything you can do to keep things running smoothly throughout.

3) Identify potential weak points in your supply chain

In the talks with shippers and suppliers, you will likely get a pretty clear picture of aspects of your procurement efforts that should be fairly easy, and those where you might encounter difficulties, according to Zycus. If you know the potential problems in advance, it becomes easier to craft backup plans so that, when problems arise, you can quickly pivot to another reliable option for success.

4) Keep careful records

Whenever you make plans for what you will do in a given situation, it's important to put them into writing, and the same is true of taking notes about the discussions you have with shippers and suppliers, Zycus said. That way, if someone doesn't hold up their end of the bargain or it becomes critical to find a new path forward, there's no ambiguity about how to proceed.

5) Plan for shipping problems, including weather

The overarching theme for the holiday season in the logistics industry is "expect the unexpected," which means you should never rest on your laurels and think everything will go according to plan — and that may be particularly true for shipping, according to EC Sourcing Group. After all, trucks will be packed to the gills, highways jammed with motorists, weather delays and more, all of which might mean your orders don't arrive on time. You need to have plans to deal with these issues, as well as shortages from suppliers, to fully deal with the ups and downs of the season.

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