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The Ins and Outs of Manufacturing Around the Holidays


This holiday season, American consumers are expected to spend more than $720 billion, an increase of nearly 5 percent over sales figures from 2017, according to the National Retail Federation. But as buyers bolt to malls to take advantage of last-minute deals and purchase gifts online, manufacturers here and abroad are navigating a holiday rush all their own.

During peak season, businesses in the manufacturing space – especially those that serve brick-and-mortar and online retailers – pour all available resources into ambitious shop-floor initiatives centered on facilitating optimal output and service delivery.

Finding success during peak season is, of course, no easy task. As competition increases, more production roadblocks materialize. This is why manufacturing organizations must develop and deploy specific operational strategies designed to achieve favorable results during peak season. When they do, their clients can keep their shelves stocked, customers get the products they want and company coffers grow. What exactly are these peak season manufacturing best practices?

Keep an eye on manpower

Worker absenteeism is an acute year-round problem that only grows worse during peak season. According to research from the Society for Human Resource Management, an estimated 72 percent of American businesses said that workers take unplanned time off around the holidays, reducing staff levels and making it harder for businesses to hit production targets.

Manufacturers can fight back against these operational roadblocks by planning ahead and introducing innovative solutions such flexible shifts, which can bolster employee engagement and retention. Moving forward with ambitious hiring initiatives is another proven option, as this allows firms to cultivate corps of willing workers prepared to work to embrace the holiday rush.


Address the supply chain

As customer demand reaches its zenith, supply chain operations become even more critical. Manufacturers that plan for this eventuality set themselves up for success. According to The Wall Street Journal, in autumn 2017, Nintendo began ramping up supply chain processes for its new Switch video console, which had suffered from logistical issues, making it harder to acquire after its release date earlier that summer. Pre-holiday planning allowed the company to meet customer demand during peak season and laid the groundwork for historic sales, according to Polygon. Manufacturers can find similar peak season success by anticipating the effects of heightened demand, safeguarding against issues and ensuring supply chain efficiency ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Prepare for marketplace changes

With every peak season comes unique economic challenges. Manufacturing businesses must take steps to mitigate shop-floor issues stemming from recent marketplace developments. Many companies looking for success in the final weeks of 2018 have begun putting into place processes designed to address the trade war unfolding between the U.S. and China, a conflict that has complicated raw material procurement practices, Logistics Management reported. Some have decided to secure materials and components from China as early as possible, thus beating the implementation of the tariffs. Others are biding their time, developing backup plans and hoping the countries come to an agreement that doesn’t include tariffs.

Manufacturers that implement these and other peak season best practices can end the year strong and make out like so many of the bargain hunters out shopping for holiday sales. That said, implementing these strategies alone might prove difficult for some teams. USC Consulting Group is here to help, leveraging decades of consulting experience to assist manufacturers intent on optimizing their operations and boosting the bottom lines. Contact us today to learn more about our work in the manufacturing space.