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Strengthening Supply Chain Operations During India's Peak Festive Season

Vinayak Bhat | 26 October 2021

India is welcoming the festive season and ready to celebrate with great enthusiasm while adapting to the new normal brought on by the pandemic. Festive months are generally a time to indulge in heavy shopping, which increases our budget spent in light of the ongoing festive vibe and running promotional sales offers.

Festive season 2021 is expected to bring numerous opportunities for retailers and ecommerce companies. Festive sale offers have already begun and with buyers becoming more comfortable with online shopping, Forrester Research expects online retailers to generate about $9.2 billion in sales during this period. That’s a 42 percent year over year increase from their evaluation of $6.5 billion in festival months sales during 2020.

We are excited to witness this exponential jump in India’s ecommerce market. As per the estimates by RedSeer Consulting, ecommerce platforms such as Flipkart and Amazon India got $2.7 billion in the first four days of festive sales that began on 2 October 2021.

The excitement with festive promotional sales offers will create massive online traffic, impact product sales and company turnover, and put enormous pressure on companies’ supply chain processes. Companies might equate the ecommerce platform as the “brain” and the supply chain as its “heart”. Both must perform in tandem to fully meet and satisfy customer expectations.

Festive months are a crucial period when companies can make a lasting, positive impact on consumers. To accomplish this, starts in the warehouse. Strengthening supply chain operations for ecommerce, especially during peak season, is imperative to sail through any complexity that can challenge a brand’s reputation.

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Supply Chain

Let's look at some of the common supply chain operational challenges and strategy opportunities.

1. Fluctuating Customer Demand: Retailers need to design their supply chain strategy to provide flexibility and scalability needed during peak demand. A certain level of investment towards supply chain technologies such as cross-belt sorters or goods-to-person picking technology will be beneficial to handle the day-to-day required tasks. It will help employees to perform three times faster than their traditional, manual process to meet fluctuating customer demand.

Keep in mind that now is an optimal time to check existing equipment and automation systems to ensure that they can carry you through the peak season. Have enough mechanical component replacements on hand, test your system and perform equipment maintenance.

2. Inventory Management: Too little or too much inventory impacts efficiency. In the absence of real-time inventory data reporting, this can create a roadblock. There’s an increased risk of selling non-existent inventory or incorrectly reordering from a supplier which can create downstream product delays. Also, keep in mind that the festive season coupled with promotional sales offers may spike the demand for a certain period. Hence, organizations should design a system with real-time data reporting to manage the promotional inventory and position product near the pack station. This will create efficiencies and expedite pick and pack.

Further, companies can implement software solutions like a Warehouse Management System (WMS) which can help you plan processes within the warehouse to increase operational efficiency, including handle complex logistics environments brought on by the festive season. Software upgrades can help provide critical control necessary for smooth operations.

3. Workforce Shortage: This year’s festive season comes with the challenge of workforce shortages. Considering the pressure on the logistics environment during the festive season, it becomes more challenging to manually handle product movement and fast delivery expectations. Implementation of intelligent conveyor routing integrated with conveyor belts, distribution software and support of other equipment will relieve the pressure created due to shortage of workforce. Automated picking technologies like layer picking, crate picking is helpful to handle consumer goods and food and beverage products by enabling precise control over the material flow across the warehouse.

4. Material Sourcing from Other Countries: Network logistics is a major challenge apart from production scheduling, compliance issues and time differences. It is a long journey between shipment leaves a factory and when it arrives t the destination. Things can go off track. Hence, maintaining up to date and real-time information across all the channels and centres when sourcing materials and commodities from other countries is the utmost priority. 

5. Warehouse and Distribution Centres Space Crunch: To keep up with increase high ecommerce market, organizations need to keep more inventory on hand, leading to a need for more warehousing storage space. In such scenarios, using an ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System) will be helpful to store large quantities of materials in a small track, maximizing warehouse space and improving overall warehouse inventory management.

6. Delivery Management: Last but not least, the crucial part of logistics is to deliver the right product to the right customer at the right time. Every process involved in the delivery management, such as field staff visibility, route planning and accurately locating a customer's contact information can impact the overall cost of the order fulfillment process. It can hamper the overall profitability. Companies with optimized supply chains have 15 percent lower prices. This is achieved by reducing waste, creating efficiencies and improving overall warehouse operational visibility.

From Bastian Solutions’ Customers: Preparing for the Festive Season

Our existing ecommerce retail customers say it requires long-term strategic planning and preparation to handle the peak season demand. To avoid any possible errors during the sales period, these companies update and review all the data in advance in their warehouse management systems.

They also follow proactive measures to keep their warehouse automation system in excellent condition by leveraging preventive, protective maintenance by changing critical elements recommended by OEM.

During peak period sales, it's not just Bastian Solutions’ automation technology and integration that is helping companies outperform. Customers speak highlight maintenance support, strong control architecture and most importantly, our exceptional on-site technicians and customer support team are always there to extend 24/7 support.

Sail Through India’s Peak Season Complexities

More and more buyers are using online channels to stay make their purchases and this shift is pushing retailers to invest in warehouse automation solutions. Well planned, designed automation is essential to success for any retail ecommerce company. Flexibility and scalability are no longer “wish list” features, they’re a “must-have.” Moreover, a robust operation support and maintenance team should also be available for emergencies to ensure NO downtime.

It’s crucial to remember that the festive peak season is a demanding period requiring an extraordinary amount of labor and effort. With ecommerce on the rise, these peak season levels of activity should be anticipated to last. Bastian Solutions, with 70 years of experience, is an expert in providing innovative warehouse automation solutions. Contact us to talk to an engineer today.

Author: Vinayak Bhat

Vinayak Bhat is a General Manager at Bastian Solutions India. He has more than 18 years of leadership experience in the field of sales, operations, project execution and general management. Vinayak has a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and leadership programme from Sweden.

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