We pen this Supply Chain Matters posting on Sunday, December 22, on the very last weekend before the Christmas holiday.  This is the absolute peak of the holiday buying surge, as online shoppers make their last minute purchases, assuming that delivery prior to Christmas is a given.

This is the weekend that all of us, supply chain or consumer alike, need to extend a huge shout-out to all the logistics, transportation and delivery professionals who have again performed in an extraordinary manner.  Included  in that recognition are the planning and inventory management teams that have scrambled to deploy inventory across various fulfillment channels.

This has been an especially challenging year.  The period between the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas, where the bulk of holiday buying occurs, was shortened by one full week from previous years.  In the United States, severe winter storms impacted many parts of the country, causing transportation delays and perhaps motivating other shoppers to perform the remainder of their holiday shopping online.  That has stressed and already highly stressed logistics infrastructure.  Even as we pen this posting, an ice storm is moving along the northeast United States threatening to cause additional delays.  The timing could not be worse.

The latest edition of Bloomberg Businessweek features a timely cover story, Can UPS Save Christmas?  The article profiles Scott Abell, the director of Peak planning for UPS, who is known internally as “Mr. Peak.” Abell is responsible for insuring the all of UPS resources are adequately planned to handle any expected holiday rush. As the Bloomberg authors note: “Mr. Peak’s job, in effect, is to fulfill the Internet’s promise of instant gratification.”

That says it all.

Assisting Abel and his planning team is the UPS Contingency team headed by Steve Merchant. That team has to respond when all of the best laid plans are upset, or when weather or unplanned needs cause glitches.  The contingency department has 18 planes positioned that can take off on 30 minutes’ notice to plug holes in delivery schedule commitments or accommodate last-minute requests from shippers.

Tomorrow, UPS could process and handle as much as 3.2 million packages, nearly twice that of any other period.  The current bad weather is not going to help, nor will last-minute requests from retailers to ship goods overnight.  This very weekend, and perhaps the next two days, the UPS Worldport will be working double shifts to accommodate our needs as consumers for instant gratification.

Beyond UPS are other professionals working at FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service and other logistics and transportation carriers, who often do not get the recognition they deserve.  They all collectively work their butts off so that consumer’s young and all can celebrate with gifts, holiday cheer and special foods.

We at Supply Chain Matters extend a huge shout-out to all logistics and customer fulfillment professionals who consistently perform beyond all expectations, in cold weather, winter storms, and among crazy holiday drivers and traffic jams, to insure that the goods are delivered for the holidays. They are all clearly distinguished supply chain management professionals.

While you go about your business and enjoy the holiday events these next few days, if you encounter these professionals on the roads, sidewalks or business establishments, please acknowledge them with a hearty “thanks” and a huge “Thumbs-up”.              thumps_up

This year, they deserve it more than ever.

Bob Ferrari, Executive Editor