January 26 2023 | 9 Min Read

The best antidote for cloudy winter skies is clear logistics planning

Posted By
Wendy Mackenzie
The best antidote for cloudy winter skies is clear logistics planning
Logisticians speak endlessly about time and organization. Rock up to any supply chain management conference, and you’ll see a sea of earnest-looking individuals locked in discussion about just-in-time delivery, carrier selection best practice, center of gravity analysis, and a host of neatly line-chartable concepts that place time on one axis and human organization on another.

But sooner or later the theoretical rubber hits the road of reality. And all too often that road is flooded, slick with black ice, or buried under a snowdrift.

We’re talking about the weather.

Sock feet by fireplace

You just can’t escape the stuff! A bout of bad weather can cripple your supply chain, often causing a ripple effect of disruption that can rattle your delivery efficiency to its foundations for months after the bad weather itself is just a historical footnote in life’s meteorological almanac.

Having trouble keeping your deliveries ticking over this cold, wet winter? You’re in the right place! Kick off your snow boots and sidle on up to the fire because in this blog we’ll look at how IL2000 can work with you to weatherproof your supply chain.

General tips for weathering the storm

In a moment, we’ll take a look at some of the more specific and complex supply chain scenarios bad weather may lob on your front doorstep. But before we get to that, here are a few useful rules of thumb you can apply regardless of where you’re based, what you ship, or how you ship it.

  1. Bad weather isn’t just a meteorological problem: It’s also a human organizational problem. Normality doesn’t return automatically when the ice thaws or the hurricane’s roar subsides to a whisper. You’ll likely face a period of intense supply chain volatility as carriers, competition, and customers adjust and counter-adjust in the wake of the event. Stay vigilant after the skies clear, and be willing to get creative to keep your inbound and outbound freight moving.
  2. Weather-based disruption affects everything all at once: Most supply chain challenges happen on one front. A typical disruption will impact a narrow cross-section of your freight operation and you’ll have options to mobilize other resources to pick up the slack. Weather-based disasters don’t work that way. Everything from power to water to personnel to service availability can be undermined instantly. Outside help from a third-party logistics provider with a bird’s eye perspective is a crucial asset amidst such general systemic mayhem.
  3. Responsiveness is as important as preparedness: As points 1 and 2 amplify, you just can’t prepare for every contingency. A hurricane, flood, or snowstorm preparedness plan is a must-have if you live in an affected area. But you also need resources on standby to react swiftly to that additional complicating variable you hadn’t anticipated. A rapid-response 3PL is your best ally when things go wrong. It’s worth mentioning here that IL2000 sets the bar for responsiveness, with an average troubleshooting reaction time of under 11 minutes! Here’s how we do it.
  4. Response to bad weather has two critical phases: First, there’s the crisis, then there’s clean-up. In the midst of a snowstorm or hurricane, the crisis phase calls for agile decision-making. After that frantic chapter winds to a close your supply chain people will need to segue seamlessly to getting your doors open for business as quickly as possible. Both stages place unique pressures on a supply chain. You bounce back best when you get both right.
  5. Every bad weather event is a learning opportunity: Each weather event you face is an important learning opportunity to boost your resilience to future calamities. Your company should carefully analyze each incident and learn from it. Unsurprisingly, that’s done best when you have industry-leading supply chain expertise seated at your table.

Next, let’s look at some of the variables that can place additional risk on supply chains

If you’re in a cold weather-affected region

In some parts of the US, a few inches of rain can quickly become a black ice nightmare and gridlock whole transportation networks within a few hours. In others, snowstorms may cripple road infrastructure.

It’s important to be aware of how these kinds of disruptions uniquely impact service centers in your area. For example, if you operate near a hub of logistics activity, it’s not uncommon to see delays compounded as service centers become backlogged with a steady barrage of incoming freight from areas unaffected by the storm. If you have a dedicated fleet, make sure your drivers are trained to operate in harsh winter conditions.

However winter uniquely impacts your operation, you’ll need a responsiveness plan that takes both the meteorological and human organization dimension into account.

Here’s how we worked with one food manufacturer to save a warehouse full of refrigerated products.

If you rely on a lean production and/or storage model

If your supply chain implements a lean production or storage model, our principal advice is that “not quite so lean” is the order of the day in inclement weather. Bulk up your resources to give your production and supply that vital cushion it needs to buffer itself from weather and transit delays. 

The rule of thumb we mentioned above — that your freight team should be cognizant of unpredictable human organizational challenges — applies in double helping if you belong to this category. Crucially, bear in mind that carriers may impose embargoes to help clear out congested service centers in weather-stricken regions.

Given the variables at play, how do you factor in a suitable resource cushion? Consider working with a 3PL to maintain strong situational awareness of how variables like service center embargoes may impact your inbound and outbound freight.

Read about how we work with clients to walk that lean production tightrope.

If you use LTL for much of your freight 

Truck in traffic in wing mirror

Another supply chain strategy worth attention here is an LTL-dependent freight operation. These supply chains typically gain immense flexibility to move variable loads within reasonable timeframes across much of the US map.

But you gain that flexibility by using the coldest and most hazardous shipping times: Night-time.

The more your freight moves by night, the more vulnerable your shipments are to weather disturbances. What you do to mitigate that added risk will depend greatly on what you ship, supporting transportation infrastructure in your vicinity, and client expectations.

Again, if you’re struggling to see the snowflake from the blizzard, talk to a 3PL that works across multiple shipping lanes. A company like IL2000 can help you successfully winter-proof your LTL shipping lanes.

Interested in diversifying your transportation modalities? Check out our white paper on lane segmentation.

Brave the storm with IL2000

Man in bubble sheltered from stormIs bad weather battering your supply chain? IL2000 can help you acquire the resilience you need to keep on shipping — no matter what the elements throw your way.

IL2000 will:

  • Actively monitor storms in your region, alerting you to severe weather events.
  • Liaise with carriers to minimize your supply chain disruption.
  • Offer guidance on the longer-term organizational fallout of severe weather.
  • Help you learn from the past and proactively plan for the future.

Come in from the cold with a no-obligation supply chain analysis.

Topics: Distributor, Warehousing, Supply Chain Management

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