Preparing for Peak Season

“Peak Season” depends on each industry and when demand surges for a particular commodity—but late summer through fall tends to be the busiest time of year for the supply chain and retail worlds, between the back-to-school rush, and back-to-back holidays.  

This year, additional factors come into play as pandemic effects and congestion remain, including the weeks-long lockdown in Shanghai—the largest container port in the world. 

Here are a few items for importers to keep in mind as your business prepares for peak season.  

1. Communication

Recent legislation and programs have highlighted the increasing need for transparency and information sharing in our supply chain.  Regularly communicate with your vendors about ongoing issues to stay on top of possible disruptions as well as available solutions and back-up plans.

Example: Bringing your shipment into Port A is the most direct route, and usually the most cost effective. However, congestion has been increasing in that port, and you’re not sure if you should switch to Port B instead. Your vendors (perhaps a Customs broker, freight broker, or trucker) may have insight into the cost of delays at Port A, whether Port B is following the same trend, or if there is an alternate route you have not considered. 

2. Thoroughness

Incomplete information can lead to severe delays – research ahead of time, speak with your broker to understand your shipment’s requirements, and make sure you have details ready to go. 

Example 1: ISF Filings for ocean shipments must be submitted to Customs no later than 24 hours before vessel departure. Delays in this filing can result in substantial fines, and/or a Customs inspection upon the goods’ arrival. 

Example 2:  Many commodities are subject to “Partner Government Agencies (PGAs)” such as FDA (food products), USDA (agriculture), or ATF (alcohol, tobacco, & firearms) that require additional documentation along with the usual invoice, packing list, and BOL required of every import shipment. Have you researched your product and all of its requirements for import into the U.S.? 

“The bottom line is understanding what a “peak” season means to the office experiencing it and doing everything possible to ensure the smooth flow of documentation and information as well as complete/accurate documentation so there are no unnecessary tasks involved.”

– Tammy Wernle, Indianapolis Branch Manager at C J International

3. Collaboration

Even with all the proper planning, peak season can be a stressful and crazy time in your business’ supply chain. It highlights the importance of going beyond transactional relationships with vendors to finding true partnerships you can rely on to help your business succeed.

Example: At C J, collaboration includes prioritizing working with agencies in our network, particularly those we have built long standing relationships with. Our commitment to our clients goes beyond the quality of services we directly provide, to the services provided by third parties involved in a shipment. This structure allows us to have more transparent and timely communication, as well as more personalized service.

“It is invaluable for C J as a broker/freight forwarder to be able to work with one of our trusted agents at the opposite end of the supply chain. However, it is even more important during difficult times such as peak season or the current difficulty that global logistics is experiencing. Working with a long-term partner means that we both know we have a vested interest in finding the best solution for our mutual clients.

Jason Combs, VP of Indiana Operations at C J International

While communication, thoroughness, and collaboration will look different for every business, the core principles remain the same. Supply chains are stronger when true partnerships form between agencies with mutual interests and a mutual dedication to communicating well and providing the best service possible. “Peak Season” and the challenges it brings only amplify this reality that shapes businesses’ supply chains throughout the year.

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