Winter Weather Supply Chain Challenges: Is Your Business Agile?

February 17, 2015

Northeast Snow

It’s only February, but it’s already been a brutal winter for large swaths of the United States and Canada. The last few weeks have brought storm after storm, extreme cold, big snow dumps, and an ongoing litany of frustrating weather complications. All of this is tough to endure, even with practice… but at the big industry scale, it can be a nightmare for logistics and supply chain management.

So what’s a responsible business to do? What are some solutions to winter-proofing your organization’s supply chain function while navigating unpredictable weather during the winter season so products make it to their destination, deliveries arrive on time, profit margins don’t suffer, and customer loyalty remains high?

Anticipate and plan where possible, but stay safe. Sometimes an impending storm comes with enough notice to prepare in advance, re-route distribution, or tweak demand forecasting; other times you just have to wait it out, communicate delays, and regroup. Don’t risk jeopardizing your products or staff.

winterproof supply chain pic 3Have a Plan B with qualified people to hit the ground running. If your materials are temperature sensitive, it makes sense to invest in back-up generators for cold chain trucks or have dedicated warehouse zones protected against power loss. It’s also important to have strategic employees you can trust to effectively navigate high-stress or emergency conditions with sound judgment.

Minimize exposure, maximize data. In an increasingly globalized business context, being able to analyze risk factors and reduce damage is vital. Much like other changes that can dictate your company’s supply chain activity, such as market trends or the holiday rush, winter weather requires your ongoing evaluation of stakes, assets, and optimal decision-making practices.

Diversify, recover, take stock. Use diverse suppliers and product locations to mitigate the likelihood of service interruption, create logistical alternatives where possible and have procedures ready to go for secondary operations, and ensure that you have policies in place to document losses, cancellations, and expenses.

Maintaining flexibility in supply chain is a constantly moving target. What tactics keep your business agile? Let us know in the comments.

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