Supply Chain Holiday Checklist

The holidays are like playoff football for supply chain managers; there are no second chances. You take what you learned last year, and make sure you don’t drop the proverbial ball when the pass is thrown. Your Super Bowl? Black Friday. Last year, sales during Thanksgiving and Black Friday totaled $12.3 billion, while online sales grew a whopping 18.5%. And forecasters expect sales over the two-day period to grow 3.9% over last year. Needless to say, it’s game time.


The Clock Is Ticking

Here’s the thing: it’s a little too late for you to be reading a “How To Prepare Your Supply Chain For The Holidays” article. That ship has long sailed (let’s just hope your orders were on it). What you could use though, is a comprehensive checklist to make sure your turkeys are in order. I mean ducks.  

So here you go—your companion checklist to get you through the days and weeks ahead:


O Confirm that there is extra space for unforeseen volume.

O Make sure your primary campaign products have some space allocated in the front of your warehouse.

O Check if you have enough dock doors, pickers, and lift trucks. For outside your warehouses, make sure the dock door management is running sharp because you’ll have much more trucking at a higher velocity to manage in and out-bound.

Pro Tip: Perform a slotting analysis to ensure pick locations are the correct size, and high velocity items are slotted to easily accessible pick locations.

O Validate with your carriers that you have enough capacity to push your entire inventory out.

O Make sure your distribution center is set up to support cross-docking, so products that are received can go directly onto shipping trucks—instead of waiting on shelves.

O Make certain that you perform a capacity analysis for your distribution network.

Pro Tip: Plan for distribution from multiple places. If product supply is low at one center, a multi-center distribution plan will keep fast-selling products in stores.

O Update your contact sheets and meet with your vendors to address some of the details you may face.

O Have sales numbers from previous years handy to make sure the correct amount of products are available.

O Know these metrics like the back of your hand:

  • What is the maximum volume…

                  o   Received per day?

                  o   Picked per day?

                  o   Shipped per day?

O Make sure your customer service reps are staffed up for those additional calls on where your orders are.

Pro Tip: Document everything from now until the end of the holidays, then do a recap with your key players—internal and external—to capture lessons learned for next year. 

Don’t Forget: Prep for returns. A reverse logistics plan with the right provider and network can make or break your customer’s experience.

Did you know? A lack of sufficient quantities of simple equipment (scanners, printers, work stations, mobile carts, box cutters, etc.) is the usual culprit limiting capacity during the busy season. Be sure to be cognizant of having spare boxes and manuals (for your products) as well.



See How to Track and Monitor Events in Real-Time