While most consumers begin thinking about the holiday season during the lead up to Thanksgiving, electronics supply chain solutions providers don't have such luxury. For a brand to nail the holiday buying season – and be able to become the year's must-have gadget, wearable, or smartphone standout – they must put in an entire year's worth of work and planning.
When proper supply chain operations and forecasting are in place, a product is already nearing the end of its journey by the time the customer clicks buy. This journey kicked off 12 months in advance – with many steps in between initial sourcing and final purchase – and needed to run smoothly throughout the year to ensure the desired product can be sold in time for the holidays. One fumble – such as a late shipment or improper forecasting – can mean the difference between a brand partner hitting its numbers or you having to explain to your board why a key brand has decided to go with one of your competitors.
That being said, you can plan as much as possible and it still doesn't mean there won't be hiccups in your supply chain operations along the way. Setting up a team with years of experience, proper guidance and the will to succeed is critical to keeping these hiccups from snowballing into major delays. So let's discuss three key points for making sure you have a successful holiday season and a very happy new year.
1. Forecasting & sourcing – Electronic products' intricate parts, with their multiple origins and rapid research and development (R&D) timeframes, can cause supply chain issues when not properly monitored. Therefore, it is good to build in an extra time buffer for the unexpected. Although the product team might know what they want to do – such as build 500,000 wearables – advanced planning tools help determine when and how many products must be assembled, how many and what kind of materials need to be ordered, and what colors customers might demand. The more detail that can be added to the forecasting plan, the more success the product team will see leading up to the execution date.
An additional lesson we have learned over the years is to not fully assemble products 12 months out. It's too dangerous to commit resources that far in advance, especially when a last minute hardware or software update could render all previously assembled devices obsolete. The key is finding the sweet spot – not too far in advance and not too late, but just in time.
2. Being nimble – Even the best-made plans can come apart at the seams if your team can't adjust and adapt quickly. Everything from supplier shortages and design revisions, to port strikes and catastrophic weather events, can spell disaster for a supply chain if not managed correctly. The key to getting this right is real-time visibility into your operations and the ability to make adjustments at any step of the process. Say a key LED display is held up in transit by a port strike; in that instance, being able to instantly reroute shipments to airfreight keep your assembly facility running smoothly, rather than facing a total shutdown due to lack of supplies. Taking the time to assemble a team that can come up with solutions for unforeseen problems can mean the only thing you have to stress about at the holidays is time spent with your in-laws.
3. Personalization – During the holidays, even more so than at other times of the year, personalization offers customers the ability to customize a gift for a loved one to add additional meaning and significance. This can range from simple engraving to more complicated modifications, such as color variations for covers and cases that include customer-designed patterns and images. No matter the addition, it must be done quickly, efficiently and effectively to keep from bogging down operations. Siting customization abilities at last mile distribution centers can save you from having to ship customized goods over long distances – thereby allowing for 24-48 hour customization turnarounds (instead of 7-10 days), thus making such products more appealing to your customers.
By following these three steps, you will be well on your way to unwrapping a successful holiday season.