Lunar New Year - also known as Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival - is a treasured and highly anticipated event that is celebrated by close to 1.5 billion people around the world.
As China and its Asian neighbours eagerly await the impending 2019 Lunar New Year festivities (due to begin on February 5th), industrial chain manufacturers across the globe will once again be bracing themselves for the inevitable logistical and supply chain challenges presented by this popular annual holiday.
So why exactly is the Lunar New Year such a potential headache for UK manufacturers? And how can you ensure that your production schedule and deliveries are protected?
Why Chinese production halts
Asia, and perhaps most specifically China, is a major supply source for global manufacturing, with a massive volume of products and raw materials being shipped in literally tens of thousands of containers every week.
But for a few weeks each year, that painstakingly choreographed system grinds to a halt as Chinese factories halt production and close their doors and thousands of factory workers make the long journey back to their home provinces.
With shipping forming the primary route for product in and out of China, the majority of Chinese factories are located in coastal areas. And for factory workers, many of whom originate from remote inland villages, this means that much of their year is spent living and working a long way from their homes and families.
While the official holiday itself takes place over approximately 10 days, most factories start to wind down their operations a week or so beforehand to allow their workers enough time to make the long journey back home. Many factories aren't up and running and back to full operational capacity until at least a week after the holidays have ended.
An even more pressing issue for factories though is that it's impossible to predict what their staff levels will be once the festivities are over. Some factories report that as many as two thirds of their workers simply don't return to their jobs at all after Lunar New Year.
Understandably, having to recruit and train an unknown quantity of new workers each year takes time and resource - which can have a knock on effect on productivity and quality.
How to plan ahead for Lunar New Year
The good news is that, with a little forward planning, UK industrial chains manufacturers needn't be negatively impacted.
Our advice? First of all, there's no need to go into "panic buy" mode - it's simply a case of thinking ahead. Lunar New Year is a known quantity - so if you plan for a three-week stop on production, then add another two to three weeks of delay, you'll know what to expect and your deliveries should be unaffected.
Making sure your orders are in before the factories close shop for the holidays will ensure there's sufficient time for any specific jobs to be put in the schedule. Ordering ahead will also mean that production can quickly get back to normal as soon as the factories resume their operations.
Thinking ahead about your shipping requirements will also be key. The sheer volume of products being shipped at this time of year means the pricing of sea freight is often at its highest.
To avoid delays, and keep your shipping costs down, you'll want to ensure you get your orders in early. It's worth bearing in mind too that shipments will need to be at the Chinese ports no less than 10 days prior to the start of the holidays and and that they will need to be booked in a minimum of two weeks ahead of time to secure a spot.
If you source materials or components directly from China then it's likely you have a well-established relationship in place which will ensure the completion and shipping of your goods runs smoothly.
Building on your partnerships with UK suppliers can also be invaluable at peak times to avoid any disruption to your supply chain.
And by planning ahead, and getting confirmation of your supplier's schedule well in advance, you can prevent production delays and ensure your orders are dispatched on time.