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Don’t Let Winter Weather Freeze Your Supply Chain

Distribution center in winter
9 Minute Read

Global businesses manage extraordinarily complex supply chains. Add in the threats posed by extreme winter weather, and the stakes become higher: severe storms shut down plants, delay the transport of materials and goods and leave vendors without products to sell to their customers. The unfortunate results may be damage to a company’s reputation and unrecoverable revenue.

Orchestrating today’s supply chains requires a team of talented and experienced supply chain managers and analysts. Increasingly, companies are following a more data-driven approach to gain greater control of their supply chains. But making sense of the volumes of data generated by the activities of numerous employees, partners, plants and processes extends beyond the analytical and processing capabilities of any human team, no matter how brilliant.

What supply chain managers need is the power of AI to augment their teams’ expertise, and many companies have been turning to critical event management (CEM) solutions. In this article, we look at how modern CEM platforms help supply chain teams prepare for the disruptions of winter storms, manage weather incidents in real time to meet customer demand and pave the way to faster, smoother recoveries.

Master the Monitoring of Winter Weather

Supply chain managers need access to accurate winter weather intelligence before, during and after extreme weather events. This intelligence helps to detect emerging storms, communicate the right messages to the right people along the supply chain and keep stakeholders aware and engaged.

CEM platforms collect and synthesize real-time weather data from sources like the National Weather Service to help answer crucial questions about:

  • Employees and facilities: Which shifts may not make it to work due to dangerous driving conditions? Which plants, warehouses and distribution centers will be affected by a storm and when?
  • Transport: What impact will a storm have on air, ground, freight and shipping carriers? Which delivery routes lie in the storm’s path?
  • Partners: Which suppliers and upstream carriers will be affected? And which vendors and downstream carriers are in the storm’s crossfire?

Real-time intelligence also reports on current conditions and how they change from one moment to the next. Armed with this knowledge, those on the team charged with managing incidents can adjust their plans on the fly to address any unanticipated dangers caused by storms as they change direction or grow in intensity.

Communicate and Respond Strategically in a Crisis

Before winter, management typically develops crisis communications and contingency plans as part of its overarching, winter weather response plan, the more flexible, the better. A best practice in preparing crisis communications is to script alert templates for multiple disaster scenarios and load them into a mass alert system, an integral component of today’s CEM platforms.

Drawing from real-time weather and logistics intelligence, teams can then modify these templates quickly to target alerts about abrupt weather changes to their stakeholders. They also can target additional members of the chain who suddenly find themselves in the line of fire but may not have been on the original distribution list.

Real-time intelligence informs supply chain teams when changing conditions require a contingency plan. Ideally a CEM platform will streamline the latest data into an alert that the team can send out to guide employees and partners in how to best manage the incident.

Supply chain teams using CEM platforms can keep operations humming by:

  • Tapping alternate suppliers: Global companies work with multiple suppliers to ensure a steady stream of raw materials. When a storm strikes, the company can contact suppliers less affected by the weather and ask them to increase the delivery of materials until normal operations are restored.
  • Shifting production: After identifying a plant that must be closed due to a power outage or unsafe driving conditions, the team can boost capacity at plants outside the storm’s path to make up or minimize the shortfall.
  • Filling emergency shifts: Teams can use automated quota calling and sequential calling to fill new shifts that have been added to sustain capacity.
  • Rebalancing carriers: Most companies partner with a network of carriers to transport their products, which eliminates a single point of failure during extreme weather events. The supply chain team can alert less-impacted carriers and request a temporary boost in materials delivery to keep products flowing toward their destination.

With proper planning and the right intelligence, a manufacturer can avoid scrambling during a storm to identify and contract with alternate suppliers, carriers or competitors. While these substitutes certainly can save the day in a pinch, they often charge exorbitant emergency fees that can eat into profits.

During winter, extreme weather events will disrupt every supply chain. But companies that adopt risk intelligence solutions like CEM platforms can identify major storms before they happen and be better-prepared to deal with their knock-on effects.

Additionally, these organizations are more capable of communicating with members of their supply chains more strategically, alerting them to potential disruptions before they become full-blown disasters. And finally, equipped with real-time intelligence, supply chain teams can guide those responsible for managing such incidents on how to reinforce links strained by unforeseen weather changes before they deteriorate and break.

Want to learn more? Read our Guide to Best Practices for Managing Winter
Weather Critical Events