Have you started planning your Thanksgiving meal yet? By now, you’ve probably thought about all the logistical details like: what items are required to bring the meal together; who’s responsible for bringing each dish; what time guests should arrive; and where dinner should be served so there’s enough room for everyone.
Without having full knowledge and control over many of these elements, you can only trust that everyone involved will come through – on time and as promised. You have no way to tell beforehand that a guest is going to hold up dinner by arriving 45 minutes late or that someone will forget to bring the mashed potatoes or that unexpected guests will show up, requiring more space at the table! The same is true for logistics planning. It must have contingency, as you sometimes aren’t prepared for the unseen. As we see this year, there are more cars on the road (meaning carriers want that attractive freight), and we are also seeing tight capacity. Like the Holidays, the best ones spent are those that had great planning and execution. Don’t let the bird not be the star of the show, make sure your freight is ready to go! Below you will see some updates on expected travel for the Holiday season and a personal story where I compare preparing a Thanksgiving meal to logistics. I hope you enjoy! – Adam
Like Thanksgiving, Logistics is no simple undertaking. To pull off logistics effectively, it takes a lot of expert planning, assembling the right mix of people, communication, working together, and of course, if something goes wrong, contingency planning. They keyword, is planning! Shipping during the holidays does not have to be a source of frustration; however, smooth holiday shipping requires significant planning ahead of time. In the United States for example, Thanksgiving brings the logistics industry to a screeching halt on Thursday and Friday.
In fact, the number of Americans traveling more than 50 miles by car for Thanksgiving weekend will rise 4.3% from last year to 41.3 million, auto group AAA predicted.
About 90% of travelers will take a road trip during the holiday travel period from Nov. 26 to Nov. 30 and will pay the lowest Thanksgiving price for fuel in five years.
“Holiday joy has come early this year with Americans likely to pay the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2009. Lower prices are increasing disposable income and enabling families to carve out more money from household budgets for travel this Thanksgiving,” AAA Chief Operating Officer Marshall Doney said in a statement.
Total travel volume is expected to rise to a seven-year high, as 46.3 million Americans travel more than 50 miles, with an average distance traveled of 549 miles round trip.
“This year, more Americans will give thanks for the opportunity to travel to friends and family than any year since 2007,” Doney said.
Over the past month, America has experienced some of the lowest gas prices in over a decade.
That’s not just good news for consumers; capacity is opening up for freight carriers. But while this has eased the capacity crunch temporarily, shippers know that this ease in capacity won’t be long-term. Gas prices will hike back up, especially during the holiday season.
This time of year can mean peak busyness or slowness, depending on the industry. Even with the seasonality of winter shipments, the market is unpredictable.
How can shippers stay ahead?
If not already outsourcing to a logistics provider, we recommend finding a 3PL that coordinates shipments nationwide. These providers know the market and know which carriers and routes will be the best fit for their clients. They can also manage vendor compliance during inbound & outbound freight shipping, which is key during the holidays, when manufacturers are distributing product to thousands of retailers.
This year I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house, so I thought I would walk you through the main steps of planning a hosted Thanksgiving, and adding a fun note about how that works in the logistics sides of things (they do parallel oh so nicely!)
The logistics of planning weekly meals is one thing, but Thanksgiving is no joke. There are obvious benefits to hosting, but there are also obvious challenges as well. Raw materials (groceries), manufacturing (preparation), delivery (presentation), etc. are all factors to consider.
I did find some great resources online to help me out with my own planning, as of course, the first step in any planning is research and understanding the lay of the land. Every great logistician knows, “Lean on the experts and use fundamental best practices from multiple sources to put together a logistics plan that is sound!”
My mom makes the stuffing my grandmother used to make exactly how I remember it. She has absolute advantage here. She would love to make it, it will turn out awesome, and we’ll all remember my grannie with fond memories (my family can tell you about the last time I tried to make this).
My mother-in-law uses her hands to manufacture perfectly stuffed and creased pierogies. We are talking about quality pierogies here. She only likes to make them on special occasions, and she always makes enough for frozen treats later. Absolute advantage.
Outsourcing is a good thing.
Logistics Angle: Ok, yes, I went there. I recommended outsourcing what you are able in the logistics process, that is outside your domain expertise (in my case stuffing and pierogies). This allows you to focus on the overall strategy, and so you can also enjoy the benefits of logistics outsourcing (improved customer service, better management, continuous improvement through data driven decisions) vs. mired down trying to perfect something that is not of interest to you when someone can do it faster, better, and in the end, a better use of your own expert resources.
Avoid grocery store chaos and separate the list out into “buy now” and “buy two days before.” I’ve learned from past experiences that trying to get everything all at once generally fails and results in aggravation. The less you are scrambling on figuring out what to buy for the big meal on Thanksgiving day, the more confident you will be when it comes execution time….and during the meal, no one wants to head over to the local grocery chain and pick up things like, salt!
Logistics Angle: I look at figuring out what you need for logistics as knowing who are your players in the shipping realm. Do you know your freight classes? Do you know what carriers you can choose and generally know how much they cost? No one wants a big order to a new customer delayed because you don’t have the carriers on board or know how to process the shipment correctly.
I can remember one year when I failed to check that the turkey had thawed. A little planning this time around, and we’ll be all set! Corrective action and continuous improvement there… Good stuff. It is through this continual learning I have been able to learn that things like dips, salads, and the like can all be prepared the night before.
Logistics Angle: Do you have the ability to learn from your logistics failures? How do you track this? Are you proactively focusing on working with those in your ecosystem to improve delivery times, carrier performance, and supplier performance? It’s vital to be able to not only track your logistics activity and make future business decisions from it to improve, but also work with your suppliers to create a fantastic inbound freight program. The key is continual improvement, like in Kaizen, to eliminate waste and decrease errors. Other areas of Prep in the logistics world comes in the integration of systems such as a TMS to your ERP so your commodities and address book are loaded in and decrease error by eliminating manual entry for processing freight for transportation.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that I really enjoy. When it comes to “quality of life,” there’s no better time. Reconnecting with family and enjoying a meal you’ve all worked to make happen is incredibly rewarding. So make sure you PLAN (Just like the Logistics pros!) so you can enjoy the holiday and focus on the good times, and not the bad times!
In conclusion, good planning seperates the holidays to remember from the ones you forget…and in the logistics side of things, you really DON’T want to remember a shipment, as a shipment you don’t remember is one that went well! From everyone at Cerasis, Happy Thanksgiving!
How are you celebrating your Thanksgiving this week?
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