There is no way anyone could have predicted the year 2020 or the resulting detrimental impacts on supply chain logistics. There is still a high degree of unpredictability about how the upcoming years will go, but we can do our best to foresee supply chain disruptions before they arise and prepare to mitigate them ahead of time.
During the back-to-school and holiday shopping season, global trade and freight shipments skyrocket. This period usually stretches from mid-August to October and again from December to January. As demand starts to surge, it's important to be prepared for any challenges that may arise. Below, we list some freight shipping issues that could delay supply chain logistics during the peak shipping season and tips for managing them.
Problem #1: Staffing shortages
This was one of the primary issues affecting freight shipping in 2020 due to sudden restrictions on employee proximity and reduced employee hours. A number of employees also became unavailable due to unforeseen illnesses. These kinds of staffing shortages, if not adequately prepared for, have the potential to limit operations to a debilitating extent. As you approach peak shipping season, you’ll want to make sure you have enough staff on board.
What you can do:
Make sure you consider your resources for temporary staffing if any long-term employee should request leave. Look at the data from last year and analyze its effects on long-term productivity--carefully consider the pros/cons of hiring more people with less experience versus hiring fewer people with more experience. Consider, for example, the possibility of augmenting temporary employees’ skills with additional training. That way, even if there are restrictions on the number of employees working at a specific time, all employees will have the necessary skills to get the job done.
Problem #2: Outages
There was an unprecedented number of disruptive outages in 2020. Outages can halt the progression of operations for hours to days, and you need to be prepared for resulting delays in the coming year, especially as we head into peak season.
What you can do:
Make sure you have a solid contingency plan. You will want to make sure you have answered the following questions to keep operations running smoothly in the event of an unplanned outage:
- How will you communicate with your staff and clients?
- Are there enough generators or other compensatory mechanisms that would help resolve the outage short term?
- How long will these work for?
- If goods need to be moved to a different location, do you have spaces reserved for fulfillment purposes?
Make sure you provide training to management so that everyone agrees on the plans.
Problem #3: Increased demand for speed
Shipping delays are one of the most common shipping problems worldwide. Peak shipping season always has more “expedites” or requests for faster shipping. Unfortunately, unplanned delays are always a risk for freight shipping logistics; consider the longstanding delays that occurred in 2020 when a cargo ship was stuck for six days, obstructing the Suez Canal and halting all operations associated with the route. You want to make sure you have a plan in place if this kind of unforeseen event should happen during peak season, where the demand for speedy shipping is highest.
What you can do:
It’s crucial to plan ahead for increased demand and rushed orders as much as possible. Designate a research team to identify the level of increased staff and expedited handling of goods without breaking the budget or compromising safety or customer service. Establish communications ahead of time to track these capacities over time. Set and enforce capacity limits ahead of time so your staff isn’t overwhelmed with requests--this could lead to staffing issues early on in peak shipping season.
Problem #4: Weather
There have been several unprecedented weather-related events in the last decade, and unfortunately, most of them tend to occur in the fall and winter months during the peak shipping season. Winter weather storms can last for days or weeks, especially if they occur in locations that don’t have the proper equipment and logistical support to keep transportation systems running.
What you can do:
Since weather-related delays are among the most likely supply chain disruptions you will face during the peak shipping season, make sure you have a plan in place. Prioritize what kinds of products can be transferred to another site versus those that need to be shipped via the original route. Secure the details for the transfer logistics ahead of time so your staff is not scrambling at the last minute. Obtain freight insurance to protect any items that may get damaged from a weather-related accident.
Ensuring that you are prepared for the peak shipping season in the coming year will require adequate planning, increased communication, and strong priority management. Try to anticipate as many problems as possible based on the events in the last year, and prepare your staff and management personnel accordingly. You can also consider hiring third-party professionals to help with the process; Cabrella can help offer insurance-related freight shipping solutions and international shipping solutions. To help prepare for the upcoming 2021 peak season, get a quote today