Resilient Supply Chains Minimize Disruptions During Times of Crisis

Disruption is no stranger to supply chains even when operations are normal. Large-scale disruptions are unavoidable and unpredictable. While they’re infrequent, their occurrence is a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’. During times of extreme disruption, like we’re currently seeing as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, issues are not only amplified but absolutely crucial to minimize.

Unfortunately, many supply chains are currently unprepared to provide the level of agility needed when addressing these disruptions. In order to remain resilient during this uncertainty and continue operating efficiently, supply chains need as much agility and optionality as possible. That means being able to switch shipping modes quickly and efficiently and having access to a wide network with as many carriers as possible.

Modal Agility Mitigates Disruptive Roadblocks

When specific geographies are impacted by global disruption it can shut off certain modes of transportation to or from the area. When this occurs, you’ll need to quickly change the modes for shipments in the affected regions.

Looking at one of the most important industries during a pandemic, pharmaceuticals, the need to switch modes quickly and without much warning becomes clear. We’ve already seen this from one of our multi-national pharmaceuticals customers. This company relies on multi-modal shipments. They have to source materials from a wide range of manufacturers and they tend to book directly from freight forwarders for door-to-door and port-to-port moves. Unfortunately, recent restrictions on air shipments resulting from COVID-19 forced them to find different modes. Due to the fact that people rely on medications—especially during times of public health crisis—they had to do so very quickly.

In order to ensure their customers got their medication on time they had to quickly switch their air shipments to ocean shipments, particularly on critical European supply flows to the US. Due to the high value and importance of this cargo, accurate, real-time tracking is crucial.

That said, real-time ocean tracking is relatively new for many of these companies. This means they likely need to add the option for cargo visibility very quickly. project44 has a large network reach across modes and adding ocean visibility to their visibility picture is fast and easy. As a result, our customers gain visibility into ocean shipments—as well as other modes—seamlessly and see the entire picture through our Visibility Operations Center™. It serves as a single source of truth for all of these crucial shipments.

Network Breadth, Depth, and Carrier Optionality

In the past, supply chains have approached network optimization through simplicity—reducing the number of vendors or suppliers in their network to minimize complexity. While this might make things easier in the short-term, during times of disruption it can lead to issues like delays and product shortages. If your only supplier is unable to fill an order, you have nowhere else to go. The ability to access and efficiently collaborate with a wide network provides you with the optionality you need to minimize disruptions.

This is true of your carrier network as well. Ensuring you have capacity available for your shipments is a huge part of maintaining resilience. You need as much optionality as possible and that requires a deep, wide carrier network. project44 offers the most expansive network coverage possible, and our NMC allows for rapid carrier onboarding and helps you manage complex data-sharing relationships in a fully automated and secure way. These conditions might cause the market to shift back in favor of carriers. It’s important to have visibility across a range of carriers when capacity is tight and shippers are looking for the best deal. Optionality doesn’t stop at simply locating capacity, it can help you find the best price as well.

During the current pandemic, hours of service limitations for carriers have been suspended in order to help get crucial supplies like medical equipment, hand sanitizer, and food to the areas that need them. Home goods shipments and grocery stores are seeing a significant rise in business, which is echoed by inbound deliveries to stores. Our numbers show trucking shipments to grocery and discount retailers were up 56% from March 15-19. The average daily volume that week was 17% higher than last year’s peak season! There is a strain on certain areas of the supply chain and less movement in others. We are in new territory and it’s difficult to predict what capacity will be available when. Network depth and breadth are paramount to your ability to minimize disruptions.

Resilient supply chains are able to make swift changes through agility and optionality. Some issues are impossible to predict, but a supply chain that remains prepared for the unexpected can not only weather the storm, but at times, excel during tumultuous periods when their customers need them most.

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