Summer’s dwindling down, so it’s the perfect time for shippers to get ready for the holiday season.

The holidays are undoubtedly the most pressure-packed time of year for retailers, as most earn the majority of their profits through promotions during this crucial time. There’s a lot of moving parts throughout the supply chain, with shippers at the epicenter of customer service. 

Against this backdrop, all eyes are on supply chain professionals.
To ensure that it really is the most wonderful time of the year, with packages delivered on time and anxious customers satisfied, shippers should read this list and check it twice:

 Know thyself. Conditions change quickly in your business. But what if you’re unprepared for those changes? With so much riding on the holiday season, companies can’t afford to take a good look in the mirror. It’s imperative to know your operational dynamics now. 
The sales and marketing functions in organizations frequently set goals that sound good, but often aren’t achievable. The operations team should synchronize forecasts by applying S&OP principles while balancing the throughput realities of staffing, floor space, dock doors and network design. Determine your capacity limitations. Know your carriers and their feasible service performance. 

 Take capacity forecasts with a grain of salt. Your carriers want to do everything they can to meet your needs. However, before buying into carriers’ holiday-readiness “hype,” understand their operational plans and know when their surges occur 
Ensure that your needs can be met by doing a deep dive on carriers’ holiday strategies: Is additional capacity available for your shipments, if necessary? What are their plans for seasonal hiring? Are they prepared for a flood of deliveries to your most critical locations? Can they accommodate later pickup times? By letting providers know your needs up front, based on your shipping patterns, you’ll see better coverage during those times.
Also, have contingencies in place. Consider partnering with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider. An experienced 3PL provider knows the market and can respond accordingly. By leveraging existing relationships with reliable carriers, a good 3PL will ensure that your freight is covered during peak times.

 Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communication is at the core of success, and always bears repetition. Start with your communication to internal constituents—the sales and marketing team, customer service representatives, returns processors, and the shipping, billing and IT teams. Ensure that they know how the operations are performing at all times. 

Next, engage your 3PL providers and carriers. Inform them of your expectations, including any service level agreements. And, lastly, talk to your customers; if something is going wrong, don’t let them find out through social media. Remember how the press and social media took carriers to the woodshed last holiday season? Manage expectations and make sure that all of your constituents are aligned.

Being proactive can’t be optional as the holidays approach. The calendar says September, but the success of your holiday season should be in full jingle bell swing right now.

Tom Nightingale is the president of GENCO Transportation Logistics. He can be reached at