Supply chains around the world have been taking a pasting for the past few months. Never before have supply chains had so many important people standing over them deciding their fate. One could say, in the circumstances we find ourselves in, it was only inevitable. But that is not something you should ever say about the supply chain, unless there are objective truths to be uncovered.
So what if some, here now and gone tomorrow world leader has an issue with the way trade is done with any one country? Policies can be ratified, but repealed as well. Major changes only occur when the system can no longer carry on the way it is, due to the fuel that it is powered by, running out. And we know now, that consumers have had enough of brands ignoring climate change. So what can you do about it?
Shortening Supply Chains Requires Planning
Supply chains that are thousands of miles, might seem normal. But, why should they be? It doesn’t make any sense when you speak to someone about it. Why can’t you make things locally? Why don’t you want to improve quality? If you answer these questions with the simple answers of, it’s cheaper to manufacture products far away from home, or that you would rather produce more than fewer but better quality products, you will meet the confusion and possibly annoyance of the consumer.
Supply chains can be shortened. You can invest in training people at home, opening up warehouses, production facilities and testing plants, closer to home. It makes sense to invest in training because training is an inherently multiplying strategy. If you can get a few highly trained staff in your midst, they can then design a training program in-house. Thus, you can endlessly repeat the process of training and gain a better trained and skilled workforce. It requires planning and the belief in the idea to make it happen.
Diverting Cargo Mid-Steam
The need to divert cargo rapidly is not something we business owners think about often. However the recent blockage of the Suez showed that the world can grind to a halt, because of one very large ship causing a traffic jam. Companies that had time sensitive products such as fruit, meat and medicines had to divert their massive cargo ships, from the mouth of the canal, around Africa. This added about 1-2,000 miles to their journey which was already 8-10,000 miles. The amount of fuel used, the more working hours for the crews and the additional days and maybe even weeks of sailing caused massive disruption and financial stress.
This is why you should invest in making your supply chain visibility much higher. You can see what kind of issues your cargo and products are facing. It might be that uncertainty has increased because new legislation is being passed, or perhaps that certain ports are unable to service your cargo. Using higher visibility software enables you to keep track of not just your products but also, the things that matter when importing or exporting. The law, regulations, systems, markets and payment options etc, all are accessed through one program.
Once on Land
Many businesses find they need to have some kind of communication system with all parts of their supply chain. This includes but is not limited to.
The loading company i.e. docks and ports companies who do the inventory and heavy lifting.
The cargo ships. Freight companies have a lot to do, your containers could get lost in the weeds if you don’t keep in contact with them.
The importer or exporter. Remain in good contact with your suppliers and buyers, getting valuable information about delays.
If anything is coming down the pipeline regarding changes in standards, rules, terms and laws, then they can let you know.
Once the cargo is on land, then you need to be in contact with your freight hauling services. This could be by rail or by road, either way you should get notifications when the freight has been loaded, when it will begin its journey to your depots and if there are any expected or unexpected delays. This also means being in contact with trucking companies that may be able to reroute your cargo if it were to get stuck.
Keeping Ahead of Checkpoints
As we have seen in places like Calais, Suez and areas in the South China Sea, keeping ahead of cargo checkpoints is vital.
One way you can get ahead of delays is to keep in touch with the authorities at points where you know your freight will slow down. So if you were to have a shipment of cheeses come from Germany into England, you would need to know what the situation is at Calais. Are they accidents causing delays? Are there changes in the law or regulations? What paperwork is needed aside from the usual?
The same goes for checkpoints for cargo, like the Suez. Here you should make sure to check shipping lane websites where you can get news and a live feed or ships that are on the seas. So if you find that one port has too many ships waiting to be unloaded because a crane needed repairs, you might be able to see if you can divert your cargo somewhere else to save yourself the delay.
Making sure you can get safe passage through disputed waters such as the South China Sea is also going to prevent you from being caught off guard. Make contact with coast guards and navies to let them know when you will be passing through, what cargo you are carrying and how long it will take to get in and out of the waters.
Do you have any control over your cargo? Of course. You should be proactive in your approach to your cargo, making sure your supply chains are not stretched, diverting cargo to beat delays and making your data more visible for betting planning.