While some companies ramp down over the holidays, at DCL, it’s our busiest time of year and we work extra hard to ensure our customers get the best service during this critical time. 60% of DCL’s customers see a surge in sales activities during the holiday season and in some cases, greater than 40% of our customers’ sales for the year are in November and December. The holiday season can make or break our customers’ business, so it’s critical that our teams are in sync to get our customers’ products out on time and accurately.
If you’re fulfilling in-house or through another 3PL and need some advice, read Last Minute Tips for Peak Fulfillment Season by our President, Dave Tu.
This year, DCL hit record numbers during the weeks of Black Friday and Cyber Monday—from November 20 to December 2 we:
- Shipped an average of 18,000 B2C orders per day, a 200% increase from the previous month
- Shipped an average of 62,000 B2C units per day, a 300% increase from the previous month
- Shipped an average of 250 pallets per day to retailers, a 250% increase from the previous month
- DCL’s new robotics system fulfilled approximately 10% of our customers’ orders
- Increased our workforce by 30% to handle the holiday surge
It takes a tremendous amount of operational experience and rigor to scale quickly without sacrificing quality and accuracy. With over 37 years in business, we have the experience, facilities, and team in place to meet our clients needs year round. There are no shortcuts – period.
The preparation for the holiday season starts months in advance. We collaborate with our customers by reviewing their forecasts—including any special promotions and new product releases—to accurately plan for any spikes in fulfillment and shipping needs. We build our own forecast by leveraging the historical data from year’s past and compare it to our customers’ projections. We check in with our customers weekly leading up to the week of Thanksgiving to make fine tuned adjustments. This constant and consistent communication is what leads to successful partnerships with our customers, even when things get really busy.
Once we have a firm grasp of the forecasts, we work with our staffing agencies to develop a labor plan for the key shipping days during the holidays. We work with the same agencies so they have become embedded in our work culture and business. They have on-site representatives year-round, which makes it easy to staff according to the ebb and flow of our customers’ changing fulfillment needs. Our additional staffing needs are identified weeks in advance, and we bring in the seasonal workers to train on our operational processes and systems to ensure they meet our quality standards. On especially large volume days and weeks, when shipping needs are dramatically higher than usual, we consider adding more shifts—swing, night, and weekend—in order to handle the higher volume.
This is the first year we’ve put our new robotics system into production. While it’s a brand new system, it worked flawlessly with 100% order accuracy and exceeded our expectations in regards to order throughput. The robotics system processed approximately 10% of our orders over the holidays which really helped alleviate the strain on our workforce. We plan on deploying more of these systems in each of our facilities over the next year to help increase our throughput and accuracy.
Lastly, we coordinate with our various shipping carriers for small parcel and LTL shipments to ensure we’re in lock step so they can meet our shipping demands. They increase the frequency of their pickups and size of their trucks accordingly. By working closely with our freight partners, we were able to meet our shipping cut-off times for each of our customers and manage last minute surges.
This was a record year for DCL in terms of fulfillment volume over the holiday weekend. It took a coordinated effort between our customers, our client service team, and our operations to meet the holiday sales surge. Given the hockey stick growth our customers have seen with online sales, it’s even more critical than ever we execute flawlessly over the holidays to support their businesses.