Back in the 1920s, trucking companies would transport meats and other perishable products mainly during the winter season – simply due to the lack of temperature-controlled containers. If a truck was delayed due to a cold winter storm, it wasn’t uncommon for the trucker to park on the side of the road and simply wait for the storm to pass – since the outside temperature would ensure to keep their products cold. Times have changed quite a bit since those early cold supply chain shipping days.
With the new and improved cold-storage containers in use and the need for continual movement of cold supply chain commodities all year long, shipping during winter weather conditions these days has a huge impact on the effective movement of freight.
Although we can accurately forecast a lot of things in business, the weather is still a challenge. However, there are a few impacts that winter weather has on the cold supply chain that manufacturers, carriers, and retailers must all deal with each year. Noted below are a few of the common challenges that impact the cold supply chain as those frigid winter storms become a reality – and some of the ways to combat these issues.
Truthfully told, a winter storm can simply shut down the efficient movement of any type of freight. When the road conditions are severe with packed snow and ice, driving a 53’ big-rig can be incredibly dangerous. It’s due to these facts, that many transportation companies take proactive measures to protect their drivers and assets when unpredictable winter storms hit. However, a winter storm can cause a lot of issues within the supply chain of cold-storage items in other ways including:
• Reduced production: Winter storms can shut down more than the efficient movement of freight. In many cases, it can shut down the production of perishable products including meat, frozen foods, dairy, and other perishable items.
• The Supply is Reduced: When production is reduced, the supply of available products is delayed. Most food manufacturers operate at peak efficiency around the clock in order to keep up with consumer demand for safe and tasty food. Unfortunately, most manufacturers can’t increase production to stay ahead of poor weather, so it usually causes a reduction in the supply.
• Increased prices: As supply is reduced and consumer demand stays equal, the natural law of supply and demand dictates that the cost of goods will be increased.
There are many individual parts that make up the cold supply chain. Each cog in the wheel is responsible for planning for the inevitable unpredictability of winter or poor weather conditions. Here are a few of the ways that cold supply chain partners work together to reduce the potential of freight delays, reduced production, and increased consumer prices.
• Improved cold storage: Technology in HVAC solutions has improved the ability for manufacturers, carriers, and retailers to build and control storage facilities. This gives the supply chain the opportunity to maintain larger inventory levels when supply might be impacted.
• Flexible Inventory Levels: The improvements in cold-storage capacity also permit cold supply chain partners to be more flexible with their inventory levels. In areas that are subject to weather extremes – from hurricane seasons to winter storms can improve their inventory levels when extreme weather is expected. This ensures that consumers are able to secure important supplies without the threat of price gouging or increases due to demand.
• Automated Ordering: Advanced computer solutions such as inter-connected inventory and order systems expedite the ordering of cold-storage items; especially items like medication or vaccines for flu, pneumonia and more.
• Accurate Forecasting: Improvements in satellite technology have also improved the ability to accurately forecast extreme weather patterns and storms. This allows manufacturers, retailers, and carriers to plan their movement of cold supply commodities and avoid shipping delays as much as possible.
While each of these items helps to reduce issues due to poor weather, delays in a cold supply chain are inevitable when significant weather arrives. If you are a manufacturer, shipper, or retailer who has a hand in the cold supply chain and wish to learn more about advanced communication and inventory control platforms that can reduce weather-related delays, contact an experienced third-party logistics company. 3PL’s depend on the latest improvements in computer technology to stay ahead of common cold supply chain delays.