An ill wind blows: Hurricanes and supply chains don’t mix
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Natural disasters are a huge headache for man-made systems — in addition to disrupting services like water and power on a residential level, they can also bring supply chains to a screeching halt. From flash flooding to outright facility damage, hurricane-proofing your supply chain is a challenge, but one well worth tackling.
Don't Let Water "Torpedo" Logistics
While you can't predict when and where a hurricane will completely shut down 3PL availability and reach, you can commit to frequent monitoring and communication throughout the storm.
Telltale signs — school closures, states of emergency, power outages, and so on — are readily available online, even in the worst of the storm. Monitor the situation around both your logistics departure points and their slated arrival destinations.
While a creative or elongated route can avoid issues during transport, a disaster waiting at the start or end point will put an ugly knot in your supply and demand chain.
Consider Preemptive Communication
Bear in mind that your end consumers, distributors, and retailers are also going to be struggling with disruptions. Sending out a pre-hurricane email blast with a "plan of attack" helps soothe nerves and promotes good customer relationships in the process.
If you're a B2B company, consider having your reps reach out with phone calls to high-volume clients to accomplish a similar act of reassurance. You might also want to instruct employees to create out-of-office auto-replies in case your facility is shut down, or place a banner on your website or customer-facing sales portal with the same information.
Double-Check Facility Insurance & Maintenance
Much like homeowners who find out they needed flood insurance after their home has been already been impacted, the best time to review your warehouse facility coverage is well before hurricane season.
- Are you covered from leaks in the roof or water pooling up from below?
- What kind of reimbursement should you expect if stock is damaged, and on what timeline?
- What services or equipment will you likely need for cleanup, if it comes to it?
- Will your facility management provide any protections against water damage, such as sandbags?
- Which numbers should you call to report hurricane-related damages to your facility or utilities?
Knowing the answers to these questions can minimize the disruption to your supply and demand chain considerably in an extremely chaotic time.
Your staff and chain partners will be looking to you for guidance, and if you have it readily available, they can take what actions they need to without hesitation. The longer you need to consider a course of remedy, the more likely your pool of resources will shrink, artificially limiting your options.
Your Supply Chain Isn't In a Vacuum
Regardless of industry, there are constants in supply chains - virtually everyone needs transportation, and all methods of transportation need some kind of driver or conductor. In wide-scale disasters, such as the double hit of hurricanes Florence and Michael in the southeast, to the well-prepared victor go the spoils.
With a limited amount of viable trucks and drivers already on the road, subtracting trucks and drivers directly affected by the hurricane and flood-compromised routes means that transportation availability can get pretty bleak. Securing "Plan B" carriers before the worst of the storm hits will get your products — rather than your competitors' — on limited trucks that much more quickly.
Weigh the added "just in case" cost carefully against what you stand to lose in distribution volume during recovery and the equation almost always sides with an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.
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