Christmas: constantly setting new logistics records

Bastian Späth, CEO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
Man with cap on head hangs string of lights on his window while standing on ladder

Continued growth in retail sales despite the crisis, ever larger market share for e-commerce combined with record volumes for parcel service providers: Christmas is an exceptional time for logistics. After all, whatever merchants sell, service providers have to deliver on time by 24 December.

The one day that everyone cares about. The one day that demands top performance. In sports, it would be a day at the Olympic Games or a world championship. For logistics providers, this day is Christmas – which comes once a year and more frequently than in many sports. It's when everything has to be done:

  • Millions of tons of goods delivered to distribution centres on time.
  • Huge quantities of goods picked.
  • All packages delivered.

Once everything is finished and families are enjoying the holidays, it is a lot like sports. Few realise just how many people and how much work it takes to deliver this level of performance. And that's reason enough to take a closer look at what logistics does for Christmas.


Gingerbread and light strings

Every year, the Christmas spirit starts building up, starting at the end of September. Gingerbread cookies arrive in the supermarkets as the first harbinger of the holiday season. Germans spend almost 190 million euros on gingerbread between September and December, according to a study conducted by the Nielsen market research institute. That is a lot of sweet merchandise for logistics professionals to distribute. The Christmas decorations that adorn streets and houses for the festive season come from further afield, usually from China. This, too, is the result of impressive logistics efforts: almost 30,000 metric tons of holiday goods make their way here, according to the German Federal Statistical Office: 18,000 tons of Christmas decorations, 7,600 tons of light strings, and 3,100 tons of Christmas tree ornaments. They travel a long distance by sea before lighting up Christmas trees and children's eyes.

Hot phase

Parcel delivery at record speed

Parcel service providers saw business grow around 20 percent this year before Christmas. These are record-breaking, unprecedented numbers. Hermes delivered around 120 million parcels in the fourth quarter, while DPD delivered up to 2.5 million parcels a day, or 300,000 an hour. At DHL, the delivery staff often worked in three shifts in order to deliver the vast quantities on time. According to research conducted by the German Parcel and Express Logistics Association (BIEK), one delivery driver had to move a total of 5 metric tons of shipments every day. To do this, service providers added several thousand vehicles to their distribution fleets at short notice and hired roughly the same number of additional personnel. This is a huge increase that was extremely challenging to carry out.


Tackle peaks

According to bevh, the German e-commerce and distance selling trade association, online retail sales increased 19 percent in this year's Christmas season. This figure also meant a lot of extra work in the central warehouses and dispatch centres where orders have to be picked much more quickly. Many service providers increase their throughput by up to 40 percent before Christmas. After all, as retail partners, they have to support their customers' business. Retailers in all industries make 25 percent of the entire year's sales in the last two months of the year. Their annual profits, in other words, depend on Christmas business. The ability to execute all these orders as quickly as possible requires electronic data to be exchanged smoothly. Real-time information, event-based data transfers, and application programming interfaces (APIs) help keep goods flowing as quickly and efficiently as possible.


Promises delivered

When happy family members sit around the table, eat delicious food and open gifts that bring tremendous joy, you know that Christmas is a success. All because many people did their part. Or, to put it in other words: they delivered.

Bastian Späth
Bastian Späth

As a college-educated computer scientist, Bastian Späth understands how IT solutions are developed from the ground up. For more than 15 years, he has spent every workday collecting requirements, finding ideas, developing designs, setting up projects and getting them safely across the finish line.

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