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Peak season strategy: Navigate disruptions and ensure on-time deliveries

The annual peak season in global supply chains is typically a predictable period of heightened activity. Fuelled by festive shopping sprees and back-to-school preparations, it’s a time for businesses to ramp up their supply chains, ensuring shelves are stocked and deliveries arrive on time. However, this year’s peak season is shaping up to be anything but ordinary. Recent disruptions in the global supply chain have thrown a spanner in the works, creating a scenario fraught with potential delays and unforeseen challenges. 

A perfect storm of disruptions: 

The past few years have witnessed a series of unprecedented events that have significantly impacted global supply chains. From the initial shockwaves of the global pandemic to ongoing geopolitical tensions and critical infrastructure bottlenecks, the smooth flow of goods has been repeatedly disrupted. These disruptions have a domino effect, with delays in one part of the chain causing cascading impacts on other segments. 

The ripple effect of delays: 

For businesses, the impact of peak season delays can be severe. Late deliveries can lead to stockouts on shelves, disappointing customers, and potentially damaging brand reputation. Additionally, delays can disrupt production schedules, impacting manufacturing output and hindering a company’s ability to meet market demands. 

In today’s competitive landscape, where customer experience is paramount, timely deliveries are no longer just an expectation, they’re a key differentiator. Delays can erode customer trust and loyalty, pushing them towards competitors who can reliably fulfil orders. Ultimately, these disruptions have the potential to significantly hinder a business’s continuity and competitiveness during a critical sales period. 

The importance of proactive planning 

Given the current volatile environment, a reactive approach to peak season is simply not enough. Businesses must embrace a proactive stance, one that prioritises strategic planning and collaboration with experienced supply chain partners. By anticipating potential disruptions and developing contingency plans, businesses can mitigate the risks associated with delays and ensure their supply chains continue to operate smoothly throughout peak season. 

Navigating the current market: 

  • Carrier alliances and service updates: The OCEAN Alliance’s implementation of their “DAY 8 Product” has led to temporary capacity fluctuations. While this aims to improve long-term efficiency, it’s creating a shift in May’s schedule. Open communication with your logistics partner is vital to stay informed of these changes. Additionally, the 2M Alliance (Maersk / MSC) and The Alliance (Hapag-Lloyd, HMM, Ocean Network Express (ONE) and Yang Ming) are also continuing with blank sailing programmes. Blank sailings are required to manage the additional transit time required when routing ships. 
  • Shifting capacity and equipment shortages: On top of schedule adjustments, there are also concerns about equipment shortages, particularly for the most sought-after container type by retailers: 40-foot high cube containers (40hc). This shortage, coupled with the rerouting of vessels via the Cape of Good Hope due to ongoing security concerns in the Red Sea, has resulted in longer transit times and potential port congestion.  

It’s important to note that carriers are prioritising space for customers who consistently meet allocation agreements, highlighting the importance of collaborative planning. 

From our internal data, the numbers speak for themselves:  

The current disruption is far from theoretical. Carrier transit times have ballooned from an average of 34 days to 46 days between October and March. This significant increase translates to a longer wait for your cargo to reach its destination. Furthermore, on-time reliability has plummeted from 44% down to a mere 10% during that same period.  

This means that only 1 in 10 shipments are arriving on schedule, creating significant uncertainty for businesses. To compound the issue, transit time’s reliability has also taken a major hit, falling from 44% to a concerning 11%. Essentially, very few shipments are arriving both on time and within the expected timeframe. 

Strategies for success: 

Given these statistics, here are some strategies to consider: 

  • Early booking and visibility: Due to the earlier peak season (Ligentia data shows a 14% increase in April Estimated Times of Departure (ETDs) for all customers compared to 2023, with economy flat), limited space, schedule adjustments, and equipment shortages, booking shipments well in advance will be crucial. Providing your logistics partner with clear visibility into your upcoming needs will allow them to proactively secure space, develop contingency plans, and potentially secure the necessary equipment. 
  • Exploring options: Depending on your specific requirements, exploring alternative options like air freight or less time-sensitive ocean routes could prove beneficial. Working together with your logistics partner allows you to explore all possibilities and find the most suitable solution for your cargo, considering both cost and time constraints. 
  • Rail as an alternative: For shipments where airfreight isn’t feasible due to cost or size constraints, rail can be a viable alternative to ocean freight. With transit times to the UK around 30 days, rail offers a faster option than traditional ocean routes currently experiencing delays. 

 A proactive approach with Ligentia: 

Disruptions are a reality in global supply chains, and peak season can be particularly susceptible to unforeseen challenges. At Ligentia, we understand the importance of mitigating risk and ensuring business continuity throughout your supply chain. 

Here’s how we can help you navigate the upcoming peak season, even in a volatile market: 

  • Dedicated account management: Our team will work closely with you to understand your specific needs and develop a customised shipping plan that ensures your cargo arrives on time and within budget, taking into account potential equipment availability. 
  • Forecasting and prioritisation of Purchase Orders: Our origin customer service managers utilise weekly meetings to share details on bookings and potential delays due to blank sailings. They will also work with you to prioritise purchase orders that are critical for peak season and identify any that can be deferred to alleviate pressure on your supply chain. 
  • Data-driven decision making: We leverage real-time shipment tracking data and historical shipping trends to provide you with clear visibility into potential risks and opportunities, including equipment availability. This empowers you to make informed decisions that safeguard your supply chain and optimise your shipping strategy. 
  • Contingency planning and equipment: We have robust contingency plans in place to address potential disruptions. This includes offering Shipper Owned Containers (SOCs) as an alternative to relying solely on carrier equipment, which can be in short supply during peak season. 
  • Global network and flexibility: With a robust global network of partners, we have the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances and find alternative solutions to keep your supply chain moving. 

Don’t wait until the last minute! Contact Ligentia today for a free consultation and let us help you develop a winning peak season strategy.  

Together, we can ensure smooth sailing for your supply chain!