Holiday Stress

Thanksgiving has passed and it is time to move on.  Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanza are among  the joyful year-end holidays celebrated by millions as they gleefully gather with families, break bread and exchange gifts. As documented in studies, and discussed in blogs and suffered seasonally, holidays can stress even the most resilient of us.

Imagine how it stresses the supply chain.  Consider the following.

The purpose of the traditional or forward supply chain is to produce and deliver quality goods and services to businesses or consumers at the right time, at the right place and at the right price.  Under normally anticipated situations, optimal performance can be a challenge. It takes more than careful planning and process engineering /execution to efficiently and effectively deliver results.

Now imagine forecasting the demand during a remarkably large surge.  Think Black Friday and Cyber Monday  and the associated endless range of goods (toys, tech equipment, fashion accessories) and services (spa, anyone?) purchased for loved ones during the holiday season.

Even ensuring accurate food supply can be problematic. Forecasting demand during the peak holiday season poses a significant challenge with perishable items.  While most supply chains deal with non-perishable items, perishable items can’t be indefinitely stored and have rapid obsolescence.  As we all know, the quality –or lack thereof- of perishable items can have a brutal impact the health of consumers.

How about those gift returns?

That sweater from grandma wasn’t particularly to your liking?  Enter reverse supply chain implementation.

Sometimes referred to as aftermarket supply chain or reverse supply chain, reverse logistics, according to the Reverse Logistics Association is defined as, “as all activity associated with a product/service after the point of sale, the ultimate goal to optimize or make more efficient aftermarket activity, thus saving money and environmental resources.”

Product returns and management of their deposition requires diligence and environmental accountability.  Effective reverse supply chain techniques not only allow for the efficient flow of excess or undesirable goods back to the manufacturer / reseller, but also ensure potential recycling, reuse or responsible disposal.

The graphic below, from Zelcom International, represents a concise, simplified view of the reverse supply chain with its various players and components.   reverse supply chain.gif

Perhaps supply chain professionals, additionally tasked with the responsibility of procuring gifts for friends and family, bear the greatest seasonal stress… rushed orders and returns on a both a professional and personal level.

No worries. The year-end typically heralds the end of the cyclical shopping madness. However, January is readily on hand to provide the supply chain with its next hurdle… snow!