Nearly every industry that sells a product to a customer has experienced supply chain challenges over the last five years. Very little is guaranteed, from ships that could not unload to a trucker shortage to a dire need for supply chain and logistics employees.
One thing that is guaranteed is that you will likely experience logistical problems and how you respond to them will define if you overcome them.
Here are several tips for helping you overcome the supply chain challenges you will face.
Automation has transformed supply chain and logistics management over the last 30 years, and that trend is continuing. Technology tools have helped improve:
In addition, technology has made it possible to communicate the status of deliveries between supply chain components, with customers, and with third parties that can help resolve logistics issues.
Every customer wants their delivery on time, or even early, if possible. Unfortunately, with all the challenges facing the average supply chain, on-time delivery, or even having products customers want available, is not always possible. If you constantly promise the world, you will inevitably disappoint your customers.
By setting expectations early and keeping them tempered, you can overcome supply chain issues by keeping your customers satisfied based on what you helped them to expect. Letting customers know that weather is impacting trucking routes or offloading from cargo ships is slow, etc., helps you set the stage for keeping your customers happy, even if your supply chain slows.
It seems like every day brings another challenge to our traditional logistics systems. Since 2019, the logistics industry has experienced the following:
● An ongoing threat of a rail strike
● Shortage of truck drivers
● Logistic challenges from the pandemic
● Weather events in every season, nationwide
News events and weather have always affected supply chains, but over the last few years, those challenges seem more prevalent and severe. Failing to keep track of them or at least be aware of how they could affect your supply chains can leave you with products that are stuck at some point in the supply chain, lost, or delayed by days.
You should at least keep track of transportation news and politically related issues and events. That way, you can stay on top of emerging challenges before they become a crisis. Additionally, you must track the weather and be able to forecast how the weather may affect your supply chain. There are several online weather tutorials on how to analyze the weather accurately.
Using the latest technology is vital to managing supply chain challenges. So is using the latest in automation tools. Automation helps expedite supply chains virtually wherever it is used. Here are a few ways you can use technology to address supply chain obstacles:
● Routing packages at loading points
● Matching loads with drivers
● Tracking products
● Managing invoices, factoring, and settlements with drivers
Another reason to embrace automation is that most of your competitors have already done so. By emphasizing automation as a tool to help you overcome logistics challenges, you give yourself the same advantages your competition uses to facilitate the delivery of their products. While not all automation applies to supply chain management, most do in one way or another.
You need to have a professional relationship with every component in your supply chain. The more you work on building relationships, the better off you will be when you need those contacts to come through for you. It is always more difficult to disappoint someone you work well with and have a personal connection with, and that reality can come in handy.
For example, having a good relationship with the warehouse that loads your products onto your fleet can help you during high-volume periods. Not having a good relationship with the companies that help move your products can mean that your loads get delayed or another client’s freight is given preference.
While emergencies and crises are rarely predictable, most of the ebb and flow of the supply chain process is. For instance, if you deliver general retail freight, you know that certain periods of the year are busier than others. You also know when your production cycles and client activity will slow down.
Analyze your business, delivery, and supply chain data and identify cycles and trends. Use that knowledge to help formulate a general strategy for staying on top of your logistics. Develop forecasts based on that data to help you address employee schedules and needs, maintenance schedules for your vehicles, and manage work volume throughout slow and busy periods.
Logistics obstacles happen; no one, for example, can forecast a severe weather event very far into the future, even though they happen all year long across the nation. Having a way to quickly shift your priorities, schedules, and delivery mechanisms can separate you from your competition.
Work with your existing vendors to devise contingency plans and develop new contacts. Coordinate with your drivers to develop alternatives if part of your fleet becomes inactive. The more options you can create through planning, the better your chances of addressing supply chain challenges quickly and efficiently.
It is easy to let nonmandatory maintenance processes slip when you are busy. That is also a formula for developing problems that put your drivers, loaders, and even customer service reps on the sideline. Make sure that you take care of your equipment so that when an emergency arises, you can rely on your equipment to do what you need it to do to get back on schedule.
Supply chain issues are nothing new and will not be going away any time soon. The more you use the tips here, the better off you will be the next time a supply chain crisis rears its ugly head.