These days, it’s not enough to plan for the peak of the holiday season and the pre-Chinese New Year capacity surge. Shippers need to plan warehousing, transportation, and manufacturing needs in anticipation of a host of other peaks today.

To successfully prepare to meet demand, shippers should plan to increase their number of warehouse associates and their transportation capacity during the critical period of 30 – 90 days before the actual peak hits. That means you have to secure additional warehouse staff and carriers a couple of months before the peak, so you can have products ready for consumers.

Our presence in over 600 warehouses and our role in providing freight management for leading companies across a wide swath of industries gives us a panoramic view of every up and down. Here are some of our most important observations regarding peak periods and preparing for them today.

   The February to March peak is a big reason to spring into action. Why? People with cabin fever drive demand for home improvements and lawn and garden products. Also, the $25.8 billion Valentine’s Day blip significantly impacts the supply chain. Consumers’ passion for candy, flowers, and jewelry means constricted reefer capacity and more hands are needed in the warehouse for kitting and other inbound services.

   April has its peaks as well. One of the most curious peak periods we’ve noticed at Capstone is the car parts peak in April, caused by increased demand for rims, lift kits, etc. after people receive their tax refunds. Sales for outdoors gear, clothing and footwear also peak in April as consumers’ attention turns to camping, fishing and playing outside.

   May is a mother of a peak. Mother’s Day, now the fourth biggest consumer spending event, drives a massive spike in transportation and warehousing activity. Summer dreaming also pumps up this peak as buyers return to retail for electronics, clothes, and sporting goods, further straining warehouse labor pools. Increased demand for food services also puts pressure on last-mile delivery services. Make sure your courier partners have the capacity to flex to your needs

   Grocery sales make the June and July peak soar. As consumers cut loose at cookouts and 4th of July parties, demand for fresh produce, meats, ice cream and cold beverages heats up. Plan ahead so you have enough warehouse workers and reefer capacity for the months leading up to the peak.

   Back-to-school and back-to-college drive the August peak. The back-to-school peak often gets rolled into the sustained holiday peak and the big build in container traffic from Asia that lasts through summer. While it’s critical to plan for capacity craziness on both the inbound and outbound side through summer, it’s also important to eye the calm that follows. Retail sales dive after August, so you’ll want to scale back labor for a short time before things get busy again. Think about flexible staffing solutions.

   The October peak is considerable, and curious. Who’d have thought costumes and candy could cause such a stir in the supply chain? The Halloween peak pulls limited capacity at a time when transportation, warehousing and personnel are focused on Christmas. Halloween’s hobby, party and candy uplift is compounded by inbound food and grocery stocking which is ramping up in preparation of holiday feasting. Line up added carrier capacity and ensure you have enough warehouse associates for the sustained peak.

   December’s healthcare peak hits the final mile. At Capstone, we’ve seen a spike in Q4 in last-mile services driven by consumers trying to make the most of their health insurance once they’ve met their deductibles. The surge in last-mile healthcare deliveries of samples, specimens, and prescriptions during “doctor season” is an important consideration. Laboratories, physicians and anyone using couriers should plan ahead to secure capacity and control costs.

   January has a new peak driven by returns. The $171 billion post-holiday returns peak is significant, demanding last-mile services for pickup and warehouse personnel for processing returns. Make sure you’ve optimized your returns process and have enough trained associates on hand.

New Peaks Require New Flexibility

Companies’ success and very survival hinge on their ability to flex for unexpected and expected volume surges – as well as troughs. The challenge is how to secure the necessary logistics resources – especially warehouse personnel – without overshooting your needs.

We developed our Workforce Augmentation solution to provide high-performance teams that facilitate the seamless scaling of warehouse and manufacturing operations for seasonal peaks, product launches, and retail promotions.

Our ability to pull skilled associates from our pool of 20,000 team members enables your company to effortlessly adjust your numbers and address all demand fluctuations while saving time and money not having to outsource recruiting and training.

Make the most of every peak. Talk to Capstone about putting Workforce Augmentation and our other Performance Solutions in place in your operation.