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Thanksgiving and Logistics: Why 2020 Is the Year When Collaboration Is Clearly in the Gravy

Thinking about Thanksgiving and logistics collaboration is nothing new for supply chain experts. Think about what Chris Cunnane pointed out at Logistics Viewpoints: the “main segments which caused logistics headaches: the feast itself, festivities around the holiday, and the kick-off to the holiday shopping season.” 

Each year, we start thinking about peak season planning and shipping in early fall. And as Thanksgiving draws near, our pulses race, our fears begin to turn into extra anxiety, and we begin to exhibit the telltale signs of visiting for too long with the in-laws. But 2020 is entirely different. There is little margin for error. And we are looking for every opportunity to increase efficiency, avoid delays, and maintain our sanity. And that’s only when considering the preparation work that goes into making desserts. Imagine the stress and overwhelming sensations that accompany this time. So, let’s take a quick stroll through 2020, the year when collaboration is most definitely in the gravy.

This Isn’t Your Usual Family Thanksgiving and Logistics Strategy

It’s worth repeating that the 2020 Thanksgiving in logistics strategy is innovative and somewhat subject to change. The uncertainty in the market of 2020 led to one outcome, dramatic growth in e-commerce, and an unprecedented demand for logistics capacity. Simultaneously, the pandemic has made it to where the CDC has asked people to avoid family gatherings. But somehow, the in-laws are still coming. You might have considered shipping them a cooked turkey, but as 2020 would have it, USPS is already running an extra week behind. And, the peak season that we know, hasn’t even officially started. 

It’s completely different this year. We need something unique. We need a way to look at everything that is happening, make instantaneous decisions, and rapidly scale our operation, hoping that we will survive the rest of the year.

E-Commerce Changed Everything and Will Continue to Drive Increased Demand for More

The explosion of e-commerce changed everything and is on track to continue to drive increased demand for more. Customers realize e-commerce is more comfortable and safer than traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Why? There is an argument to be made that governing bodies played a role. However, let’s face the fact; no one wants to visit Walmart on Black Friday, stand in lines for hours, if the same deals are available online. In the past, we called this cyber Monday. This year, it is merely 2020.

Consumers Are Buying Way Earlier and Without Ever Leaving the House

Peak season hasn’t even officially started. And yet, customers have been buying at above-peak levels since March. Yes, it was caused by the pandemic. However, those changes and impacts are going to stick around for the long term. And when there was a glimmer of hope in early October, Amazon decided to move Amazon prime day to the first week of October.

The justification is understandable. Customers still wanted a prime day. Unfortunately, it contributed to an extended peak season that most retailers were not yet equipped to handle. And there’s another side to consider. Online shopping is easier. And customers are more comfortable in their homes. That’s obvious. What flies under the radar is that comfort while shopping amounts to spending more and more frequent spending.

So, as many sit and ponder ways to get the turkey, they also can’t help but keep thinking about their next purchase. 

Travel Is Ill-Advised to All; Queue the E-Commerce Register

Remember that CDC example from earlier. Travel is literally ill-advised. People are being asked to stay within their home-units for gatherings. This isn’t a problem for most however, it might be uncertain who may or may not show up at their houses on Wednesday with plans to stay through Thursday. 

Those are the same struggles that retailers face right now. The unprecedented demand has made it difficult to gauge and forecast the market. The only certain thing is that customers keep wanting more.

What’s in an Effective 2020 Thanksgiving and Logistics Strategy

As we start thinking about what an effective 2020 Thanksgiving and logistics strategy looks like. Let’s remember some of the standard practices for shopping for both Thanksgiving and peak season alike.

Plan the Menu, and Order Groceries Online If You Can

Any great chef will tell you that planning a menu and ordering groceries in advance are great ways to lower stress. But most do not have the luxury of a massive hotel kitchen with a seven-day lead time for supplier orders. Instead, we are limited to what the local grocery store may have available right now. Yes, it is time to break out the trustee grocery delivery service, which exploded throughout the pandemic. Many have made it even easier. As an example, Walmart’s app puts all the Thanksgiving essentials into one page. That way, you don’t have to click on any other page to complete a full Thanksgiving grocery order. That is amazing. The only thing that would be better is if it were a single button to add it all at once.

Implication for Logisticians

The implication for logisticians is simple. We need to digitize our ordering processes. Digital ordering, a.k.a. replenishment, helps to avoid stockouts and ensures we can get customers’ orders fulfilled on time. It’s that simple.

Start Prep Work and Cooking on Wednesday

Another tradition to pick up, is to start cooking on Wednesday. Prep the pies, the platters, the mixes, the potatoes, and the like. Prep it all, and be sure to not leave anything sitting out overnight on the counter. After all, no one wants food poisoning.

Implication for Logisticians

Logisticians again need to start preparing well in advance, yesterday if it were possible, to meet the demands of an unprecedented peak season. And since the recent years’ worth of Thanksgiving had almost always inevitably included a recall of some form, it is worth highlighting the need to make sure we do not accidentally leave something out to spoil and poisonous all tomorrow.

Pass the Gravy When Asked

Do you even know what’s in the gravy? It turns out it consists of food coloring, egg yolks, celery, and something that no one knows what it is. Regardless, we still pass the gravy and consume it. That’s what the modern supply chain needs to do to thrive through this uncertain time.

Implication for Logisticians

Be mindful and responsive to your networking partners. Companies want consistency and collaboration. By keeping our trading partners’ needs in mind, we can better plan our stocks, our moves, our capabilities, and accommodate changes to their needs.

Avoid the Annual Family Meltdown by Keeping Topics Open and Fun

Some households may understand “the annual family meltdown.” It’s almost an archetype and appears across various sitcoms. The drama always starts when family members don’t see eye to eye and only resolves with someone giving up on the other and hoping for the best.

Implication for Logisticians

Share data and shipment status in real-time. In the supply chain, that amounts to relinquishing some control over operations and trusting other companies’ technologies and processes. They will share data in real-time, increase transparency, apply that data in their operations, and continuously improve.

Realize It Will Pass — Maybe

A final tip is to realize that Thanksgiving is not a year-long process. The work in preparation that goes into this meal will only result in the kitchen being a disaster for 24 to 36 hours. But as mentioned, 2020 is anything but ordinary. We all hope Thanksgiving will go smoothly, but no one knows what will happen on Black Friday. That is the market’s uncertainty and hope that e-commerce expansion and demand will contract after peak season.

Implication for Logisticians

Recognize carrier surcharges are still climbing. On your shoulder, the logistician says to beware of the coming surcharges that will occur if demands continue at current growth levels. That is especially true among UPS and FedEx surcharges.

One Last Thing: About Now, the Panic Sets in with a Hope That We Find Our Missing Gravy Recipe… But It’s Been on the Computer and Shared with Us All for Years

Regardless of what happens, we will persevere. And we will find a way to manage the demand. It’s what we’ve all been planning on for years. Now is the real-time for logistics technologies to shine and help us get that last gift, the final box of stuffing, and our apology gift as soon as possible. As a final thought, it’s important to remember what the season is about…being thankful. So be grateful now and when the orders start to pile up. 

As the industry grows, the value of tech does in tandem. And finally, remember to enjoy the festivities, whether alone or huddled around a fire pit on a Zoom call with 20 of your closest friends and family. Now, if only we knew when those packages will deliver…which Turvo can show you right now. Visit Turvo online to learn more. 

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