3PL Holiday Checklist
The Holiday Season Is Crucial to My Success!
With a slow start this year my company’s success is dependent upon strong holiday sales! I have worked with our team to improve the website, made sure we have enough inventory on-hand, advertising is dialed in, but I am nervous our 3pl won’t be able to keep up with our holiday order increase. What can I do?
It’s no secret the holiday season is a critical time for many businesses, which means it is also a critical time of year for the 3PL’s they rely on to process their orders. To help your 3PL be successful on your behalf, you need to be an engaged and active partner in the planning, communication and execution of your holiday season order fulfillment. The earlier you start and the more vested you are, the more likely your holiday season will be successful — less stress, fewer surprises and delighted customers! Here are seven tips to keep in mind as you collaborate with your 3PL about how to have a successful holiday season.
The more and earlier the better! Start communicating your holiday season plans with your 3PL as soon as you start talking about them internally. Your 3PL is an extension of your team and your communication with them should be as if they are in the office right next to you. Remember, your 3PL wants to succeed just as much as you do, so the more they know and the sooner they know it, the better prepared they can be to help make your holiday season a success!
2. Inbound Routing
Evaluate your inbound shipment requirements with your 3PL and identify any volume spikes or complexity you anticipate so they can plan labor and additional space needs accordingly. Then, provide your manufacturers and suppliers with your 3PL’s routing guide well in advance of placing your holiday orders. This will help you:
- Avoid unnecessary chargebacks on your biggest inbound volume of the year
- Ensure product is received in a timely manner
- Reduce the chance of inventory shortages or other inventory-related problems
Forecasting can be difficult, but it is a crucial component of effectively handling your holidays season requirements. By providing your 3PL a daily order and unit-level forecast, they can accurately plan labor, space and freight requirements to meet your needs. You should also provide your plans for sales and other promotions and any new product launches scheduled to coincide with the holiday season.
It is common for a 3PL to double its staff during the holiday season using seasonal help. Investing time in advance to discuss with your 3PL their staffing plan and sharing what your expectations are will help both parties prepare. With this information your 3PL will be able to adequately train new employees, minimize labor cost and ensure Service Level Agreements are met.
If your 3PL can’t meet your staffing expectations, discuss alternatives that provide a win-win outcome such as having their teamwork overtime or offering special incentives for meeting your holiday requirements. These solutions may cost you more, but if your 3PL and the employees who work on your account see you are committed to a successful outcome they will appreciate it and go the extra mile for you!
5. Identify & Evaluate Changes
Evaluate new product launches with your 3PL and make sure those items will cartonize correctly into your existing package options. If changes in branding or packaging are required, communicate those changes well in advance so your 3PL has enough lead time to source what you need. Remember, lead times increase as it gets closer to the holidays.
6. Quality Control
Determine if you want your 3PL to conduct new or additional quality control measures to ensure your inbound product meets your requirements. You also need to consider how you want your orders packed out and discuss new requirements in this area and review existing requirements to make sure your customers receive their products in the way you intend. Customer service details like this can have a huge impact on your customers’ experience and the brand you are working to build.
7. IT Integration & Support
Schedule time with your 3PL and the vendor or internal staff that supports your order management system. Make sure that everything is functioning correctly between the systems, including getting shipping and order processing information back from your 3PL. It is worth the investment to understand what safety and backup systems your 3PL has in place to ensure there won’t be any IT related disruptions to processing your holiday orders.
If, after you do all of this, you find that your 3PL simply doesn’t have the right people, processes and systems in place to help you succeed during the holidays it may be time to start thinking about a change. Reading up on “How To Exit a 3PL” may help you learn more about the right way to make a transition if one is necessary.
Plan, communicate and execute are simple reminders of how to work effectively with your 3PL to maximize your holiday sales. A strong partnership is always good, during the holiday season it is critical!