Armond Green, Director of Business Development
Every year, businesses brace themselves for peak shipping season. For most businesses, peak shipping season begins October 30 and runs through January 14. During this period, demand is high, resources are strained, and prices go up. The supply chain challenges that peak season will bring over the next few months are expected to be even more severe than last year’s. The holiday creep, in which major retailers start kicking off their holiday shopping and sales earlier every year, influences consumer behavior leading into the major holiday shopping dates such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas. This, coupled with lingering effects of the global pandemic are all contributing factors that create the perfect storm, ultimately putting even more pressure on the U.S. supply chain.
Although typical delays and cost increases are sure to affect us all during the upcoming months, there are tactics healthcare providers can execute now to proactively prepare for anticipated setbacks throughout the tumultuous period.
Prioritize premium service levels for important shipments
During peak season, shipments can and do get held up. For healthcare providers, it is critical to understand carrier delivery timeframes and the complex routes orders can sometimes take to arrive at their final destinations. Most carriers do not guarantee expedited delivery during peak season, but these shipments are still more likely to arrive faster than shipments traveling via ground service. For example, if a hospital pays for next-day air during peak season, it might not arrive by the standard 10:30 a.m. next business day delivery window, but it will still arrive sooner than a ground package that could be delayed indefinitely.
Understanding both supplier and shipper peak season ordering deadlines can help to alleviate some of the supply chain stresses incurred by last minute and expedited ordering. Once teams have that information, they can start to plan accordingly when placing shipments ahead of time and building in some extra time for supplies to arrive.
Anticipate higher shipping costs
Thanks to inflation, we’re paying more for things we previously took for granted. Fuel and transportation costs will only continue to surge throughout peak season. In addition to these costs, shipping companies are also ramping up their peak season hiring to prepare for the upcoming demand of the holiday season.
If healthcare providers don’t have a logistics partner with strong industry relationships to help alleviate these skyrocketing costs, they need to be prepared to pay more for essential and non-essential items — from saline bags and needles to gloves and medication. When ordering these supplies, it is important to remember these higher shipping costs and to prioritize which items need to be shipped at a premium and which can be ordered in advance and therefore at a more cost-effective service level.
Evaluate your shipping carrier
When was the last time you investigated your carrier’s performance statistics? Setting clear expectations with your carriers is vital to successfully navigating efficient and timely deliveries, not just during peak season, but all year long. Establishing open lines of communication with service providers is beneficial because your carriers might have useful information to share such as shipping deadlines, rate changes, or advice to help your facility during peak season.
If your carrier is not willing to collaborate and provide transparency into their peak shipping model, it might be time for your healthcare facility to evaluate how much risk you’re willing to take when lives are potentially on the line.
The best advice is to start planning early, when the highs and lows of the previous season are most fresh and there is plenty of time to start implementing changes. The lull after peak season is the best time to a create peak-season strategy, when you can evaluate what went well during the previous season and what didn’t. Make sure to include your shipping and receiving teams since they’re the ones most involved in your facility’s day-to-day logistics operations. It will be too late if you wait until peak season is upon us to start making changes.
Find the right logistics partner
Navigating the healthcare supply chain — especially throughout peak season — can be complicated. Delays happen, prices increase, and guarantees disappear. The good news is that healthcare providers don’t have to navigate the complexities of peak season shipping alone. An experienced supply chain partner will evaluate carrier and vendor performance, create visibility into operational and cost efficiencies, and assist with the strategic oversight needed for your healthcare facility to perform at the highest level possible during peak season.