Winter is a costly season for shipping companies and businesses relying on freight transport. Inclement weather is incredibly disruptive and costly. Trying to plan for it is fruitless. Instead, it’s important to focus contingency planning and proactive maneuvering on what you can control — your supply chain. Being cognizant of how weather affects your costs will aid in learning how to control them and keep them as low as possible in the face of adverse conditions.
The cost of inclement weather
Unpredictability leads to costs. Inclement weather is inherently filled with uncontrollable variables. You can’t anticipate a freak snowstorm or a reduction in driver rates due to lack of availability, for example. And although it’s impossible to predict winter uncertainties, it’s reasonable to be aware of their catalysts:
- Route changes caused by closures and inclement weather patterns.
- Truck availability caused by traffic delays and road conditions.
- Driver availability caused by illness and injury during the winter season.
- Terminal availability caused by erratic pickup or delivery schedules.
- Guarantees that might not be available due to inclement weather clauses.
- Capacity limits which may change based on available trucks and routes.
- Outages within the supply chain, causing delays between custody points.
Each of these issues has the potential to affect freight logistics, and the costs associated with them grow higher the longer they linger. Whiteout conditions lasting several days at a time or a particularly bad flu season could result in rippling supply chain setbacks that impact core operations — everything from cash flow to inventory.
Mitigating the effects of winter’s bane
Although it’s impossible to predict uncontrollable winter variables, there are ways to keep freight operations from being totally disrupted. Focus on controllable variables — things you can be proactive about to offset the unknown. Ordering in advance of demand or moving product supply ahead in the chain preemptively, for example. Some of the most basic examples are the ones worth noting:
- Plan for contingencies by mapping alternate routes or shifting the supply chain.
- Adjust the budget to keep more cash available, in the event you need to strategize.
- Go outside the norm and find solutions specific to the problems you’re encountering.
- Preempt inclement weather by moving supply chain dates and deliveries up.
- Monitor the situation and have backups in place to rebound from common setbacks.
The more you do to be proactive, the less disruptive inclement winter conditions will be on your business. A snowstorm can’t delay your shipment if you’ve moved it ahead of the weather. Likewise, you won’t run a balance sheet deficit if your cash flow has already been reallocated into a contingency fund.
Treat winter as an exercise in forethought and adaptation. You never know exactly what you’ll be up against, but the challenge is sure to be unique and disruptive. This winter, strategize to control as many variables as you can, so your supply chain isn’t at the mercy of what you can’t control.