Does Your Supply Chain Include a “Plan B”?

At one point last winter, Florida was the only one of the 50 states that did not have snow on the ground.  The. Only. One.  That meant that winter weather was a factor in places that don’t even own snow removal equipment – places like Mauna Loa, Southern California and Dallas.

But what do you do when you’ve got a shipment of goods that need to be delivered by a drop dead date, and simply cannot be sidetracked by an unexpected snowstorm or other unexpected malady?  Last year, for example, Purolator received a call from a Chicago business that absolutely had to have a package delivered to Vancouver by the following morning.  Why the urgency?  The package to be delivered was a plaque that was needed for the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Special Olympics.

Fortunately for this particular business, Purolator was able to help, and the packagYese arrived in Vancouver in time for the ceremony.  But what if it’s not as lucky next time?  And what if it’s your business, and your reputation on the line if a package does not arrive in time.  In fact, a study conducted by Accenture consulting found that while 73 percent of respondents experienced supply chain disruptions in the past five years, 94 percent said the disruption impacted profitability and affected their ability to meet customer expectations.  And 36 percent said it took more than a month to recover.  A month!  Does your business have the luxury of that much time?

The key to a solid “Plan B,” lies with your logistics provider.  A good provider will be able to work with you to develop contingency plans in case something goes wrong.  But you’ll need to be proactive in making sure that your carrier has the capability to offer a Plan B.  A few questions to ask:

  • What is the carrier’s modus operandi for when a truck breaks down?
  • Does the carrier have flexibility to re-route shipments that have been delayed, either due to equipment problems, infrastructure delays or processing errors?
  • How deep is the carrier’s distribution network?  Can it accommodate late-breaking changes and urgent shipping needs?
  • If a shipment involves a border crossing, can the carrier ensure that all paperwork will be completed, and no unnecessary delays will be incurred?
  • While no one can predict the weather, does the carrier have resources to ensure a rapid recovery and alternate routing should inclement weather be a factor?  Does the carrier have access to multiple modes?

And the list goes on.  If your carrier cannot satisfy your concerns about being able to offer a viable Plan B – time to look for a new carrier.   Like it or not, the unexpected will happen!