Supply Chain - Overcoming Extreme Weather

A critical component of supply chain management is planning around risks that can compromise the chain, and few risks are more disruptive than extreme weather.

In a time when the ill-effects of climate change are being felt around the world more than ever, supply chains have to mitigate for those effects to function year-round. Of course, what makes extreme weather so troublesome for supply chains is that it’s unpredictable and can come in many forms. With each form—flooding, storms, freezing temperatures, etc.—coming with its own host of problems. It’s imperative then that supply chain managers help form their chains with the possibility of extreme weather in mind and plan accordingly.

Resilinc spoke about this and the importance of planning around disruptive weather in their blog,

Bad weather tests the agility and resiliency of even the best supply chains. However, companies that manage weather-related disruptions as part of their event-monitoring best practices and supply chain risk management strategies tend to fare better than those that don’t take preventative measures, Resilinc’s work with customers shows.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights some of the key ways that supply chains can navigate the risks of extreme weather.

Have a Back-up Plan

At times the weather event that hits a supply chain will be too great to overcome. No amount of resilience can overcome a hurricane, for instance. This is when it’s crucial to have an additional plan in reserve. So, in practice this could look like a warehouse being impacted by bad weather. And, in response, those in charge of the supply chain having some spare carriers ready at another warehouse (at a separate location) with the same product.

While this is an additional cost, considering the physical and reputational damage bad weather can inflict, it’s a necessary one. Not only that, but, in the long run, a potentially cost-saving measure too.

Embrace Technology

There’s a variety of technology that helps supply chains work around or anticipate extreme weather. Foremost amongst this technology is artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning. Via machine learning supply chain companies can gain access to data regarding internal and external risks, including weather.

This means having the latest information about the weather as well as the most precise predictions possible regarding it. Thus, through this technology supply chain companies can potentially avoid extreme weather by anticipating it. Or, at the very least, they can start planning for the weather as soon as possible.

Flexibility

A supply chain needs the ability to maneuver whatever comes its way. This is true in general but especially so with extreme weather. There will be instances where the weather isn’t so bad that the supply chain is completely brought to a halt. Rather, more often than not, the weather will require supply chain adaptations to still function. These can be as simple as taking a slightly altered route.

This point was emphasized in a Supply Chain 24/7 article about El Niño,

The key to riding out a situation like El Niño is to have a supply chain that is flexible enough to adapt. With an efficient and accurate inventory process, you’ll know what must be shipped by air and what can wait the extra week to arrive via ocean.

Robust Infrastrucure

Even with great technology, planning, and flexibility, each facet of a supply chain needs to be strong enough to deal with harsh weather conditions to some extent. For example, a supply chain’s warehouse should be able to withstand strong wind without being breached. Or, its production facility should have a variety flood-proof installations so that a flood has minimal impact upon it. In turn, when the products are being transported they might need to be temperature controlled. All in all, each step of a supply chain needs to have resiliency. So it can handle whatever weather conditions it might face.