Logistics in the Christmas rush: When the Grinch disrupts shipping

Bastian Späth, CEO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
Grinch steals Christmas presents from the warehouse

With the brisk advance of autumn, we walk with giant strides towards the holidays. Christmas music is playing in the shops, the smell of biscuits is in the air and fairy lights are spreading their soft glow everywhere. Some people are happy about this ubiquitous pre-Christmas atmosphere, others belong to the group of Christmas opponents and accept it willy-nilly. You can't really escape it all anyway ... To ensure that the logistics don't descend into chaos during this challenging time but can handle shipping in particular in a relaxed manner, there are digital supporters.

EIKONA Logistics Cloud

Software for Track and Trace

EIKONA Track and Trace makes it easy to track where the stolen packages have gone.

Overcrowded shops, general hectic, last-minute shopping and worrying whether all items can be delivered on time. Contemplative time of year – hardly! The annual Christmas rush is always particularly noticeable in the logistics industry. The Grinch has also long since taken up his position. Having already used various ways to sabotage Christmas, he is currently targeting shipping warehouses and causing cracks in value chains there. He is attacking logistics at its core, so to speak – because this is where all areas of distribution and production logistics are interconnected. After all, this is where goods are managed, temporarily stored, picked, packed and finally sent to their destinations. It remains to be seen whether the green curmudgeon, who is just about to launch a few final blows of destruction, will be able to stand up to the well-organised logistics this time.

Dispatched or disappeared? Order in storage

Chaotic storage – what may not sound too sensible at first is a proven and efficient concept in logistics. Here, the next best free space is used immediately to store a good; there are no longer any specific places where a good is always located. Otherwise, storage space would remain unused if goods are not in stock or if shopping trends change. However, it becomes difficult when the key to this principle is lost: the list of storage locations that shows exactly which product is in which place. Where could it possibly be? The warehouse worker is sure he saw it in the office a few minutes ago, but now it seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Out of the corner of his eye he sees something green darting around the corner. He has heard from colleagues that a few weeks ago the Grinch was up to his mischief. Might he be responsible for the (unplanned) chaos? How fortunate that a new warehouse management system was installed just last month! In all the hustle and bustle, the employee completely forgot about it. A quick glance at the digital tool and it’s already clear which shelf he has to look for. A true organisational miracle that has all sections firmly under control! This way, ordered goods can be quickly transported towards the shipping department. Should the Grinch simply pull the plug in a fit of desperation, there are also suitable functions for emergencies: With the scan function of a smartphone app, the central inbound and outbound control can still be carried out – the shipment data of the outbound packages are then simply synchronised with the central IT of the transport service provider.

No delivery without loading equipment

Even without an external adversary, there would already be enough tasks – the transhipment warehouses are bursting at the seams, extra shifts are being worked to meet the demand, which has increased many times over. As if that were not enough, the loading equipment now seems to have disappeared. Normally, meticulous records are kept of which loading equipment is currently where, for example, whether it is still in another company because it did not come back after a delivery. So where do the masses of gingerbread and Christmas-scented bubble baths go? Without pallets, mesh boxes and other loading aids, it is difficult to deliver them to their destination. Rescue is at hand: the software for loading equipment management seems to be working again, after a network failure had previously paralysed the entire surroundings. Thanks to the decentralised storage, the mobile apps can still record which loading equipment is currently where and whether pallets that are in the hall and should be available have perhaps already been preassigned to an order. The control of all tasks and resources functions perfectly again, and handling takes place as usual. Finally, everything is securely stowed and fastened so that nothing can slide around during the journey. A sea of brown pallets and shiny metallic mesh boxes looks out at the driver, who checks the load one last time before heading for Denmark. How funny, for a moment he thought he saw something green flashing ... But that can't be, he didn't load anything in that colour. Or did he? Shaking his head, the man dismisses the thought, closes the tailboards and goes back into the building.

Tinsel or Christmas baubles: Shipping goods on the spot

The phones are no longer standing still, and now the third special order of the day has arrived at the haulage company. Four days to go until Christmas – the countdown is running, so of course everyone, companies and private individuals alike, want to quickly send one last important shipment on its way. The delivery of Christmas tree decorations to a large department store is particularly urgent. Golden and red baubles are particularly popular this year – as the silver ornaments were most in demand last year, they were pre-ordered in the past months, but other colours seem to have outstripped them this year, the shelves are empty. Good thing the supplies are already on their way! A short time later, however, a desperate employee brings a message: the delivery should have contained the eagerly awaited baubles, but instead there were only packets of tinsel ... That's not what it said on the delivery note. Surely the Grinch has his fingers in the pie! The fact that the wrong goods are delivered, and the desired consignment still ends up in the warehouse (or even worse: at another retailer) is of course not very efficient. However, a track and trace tool can remedy this – the digital know-it-all can determine in real time where which shipment is located. This way, the entire supply chain can be conveniently tracked digitally – indispensable in distribution logistics. Even the biggest green adversary cannot compete with this when he removes packages from a fully loaded truck and exchanges them for others. Although the wrong tree decorations were delivered to the department store, the tracking system immediately reveals where the packages with the urgently needed baubles are, so that the goods can be brought there quickly. Now all the trees can shine in red and gold in time for the festivities – how fortunate!

Shipping processes: Digital support against the Grinch

Although the green good-for-nothing gave it his everything in the last few metres to make life as difficult as possible for logistics: In the end, it all came to nothing. With digital helpers, even the most complicated shipping processes can be supported: thanks to real-time data transmission, shippers, retailers and logisticians are always informed about the status of the delivery. Loading equipment, which does not have a secondary existence but plays the main role in shipping as an important resource, can be managed and used as efficiently as possible, and increased demand can be met with the short-term deployment of temporary staff, as warehouse management systems enable quick orientation in the transhipment warehouse. With these digital tools, logistics is in any case well prepared to face the rush of the high season, including any troublemakers, in a relaxed and well-organised manner. The value chain runs like clockwork and Christmas can come!

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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