Well, here it is. It's March, and in many parts of the country, we're eagerly anticipating the warmer days to come. At least we hope they're coming. It should be a given, right? It's always worked out that way in the past.
But nowadays, who's to say what the next season, or seasons, may bring? We don't need the cavalcade of news stories, opinion pieces and research reports warning of impending climate change to tell us something's afoot. Whether it's unseasonable warmth or arctic chill, reports have poured in from virtually every region of the country—even the world—about what can only be described as "freakish"weather patterns in the past 12 to 24 months. Take it from someone in New England who fired up the charcoal grill twice in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. Something's not right here!
You can argue about the causes, but this at least is clear: global warming is upon us. And the effects aren't always as benign as a January thaw in New England. The flip side is the rising incidence of devastating storms, hurricanes, and other natural disasters that bring death, destruction and chaos.
Protecting people and property will always be their foremost concern, but business executives also worry about the implications of storms, earthquakes, hurricanes and floods for their companies' operations—particularly their supply chains. For those who've been pondering the problem of how to keep goods and supplies flowing when disaster strikes, a tip sheet from software specialist Manhattan Associates may offer some help. The company has posted five disaster-planning steps for supply chain executives on its Web site, www.manh.com, and they're well worth a look.
As you might expect, several of the tips center on ways to use information technology in disaster response. Sophisticated technology can go a long way toward blunting a storm's impact by providing the information that allows shippers to divert product shipments, place inventory in forward locations and anticipate potential spikes in demand. Call it weatherproofing your supply chain.
Among other advice, the Manhattan tip sheet urges supply chain partners— shippers, carriers and consignees—to make sure they're all working off the same real-time information. "Information transparency is critical to providing visibility into the movement of product and understanding the impact on operations,"Manhattan says. In addition, if adverse weather conditions lead to shortages of critical supplies in certain areas, as so often happens, tracking and visibility systems can prove invaluable in easing the situation.With a full and precise picture of their freight's whereabouts at any given moment, users can divert shipments to where they're needed most.
The company also notes that intelligence and responsiveness tools can help shippers anticipate and react swiftly to changing demand. Manhattan points to RFID as one of the technological tools that can prove enormously useful in this regard.With their real-time tracking capability, RFID tags provide instant visibility into product shipments throughout the supply chain, helping shippers keep products out of harm's way and directing them to where they can do the most good.
In addition, Manhattan Associates advocates using a single point of demand, rather than historical forecasts, to drive the supply chain. If your company is one of those enlightened organizations that's already using its advanced logistics capabilities as a competitive weapon, you should already be there. If you're not operating that way, you should be, and that's never more true than when the weather turns ugly.
The tip sheet ends with a reminder about the value of establishing a detailed emergency plan before disaster strikes. Prior planning, as we all know, is a key element in mitigating the damaging effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters.
The watchwords, then, are technology, planning and preparedness. Now's the time to be sure your supply chain is ready for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.