If you live or work anywhere along the eastern seaboard of the United States, you know the panicked feeling when you hear on the news that a major hurricane is approaching. Even if you believe that the hurricane won’t hit your town, hurricanes are unpredictable by nature. Grocery stores run low on stock as people rush in to purchase as much water, food and emergency products to prepare for the damage as they can. So what happens to companies with freight to ship and customers to supply? Businesses in hurricane-prone areas and those that ship to those areas are at risk of lost revenue and major damage if they don’t take the proper precautions ahead of a storm.
How are Businesses Affected?
In the logistics industry, it is safe to say that every aspect of the business, especially transportation and shipping, is highly affected by a hurricane. Category 3, 4 and 5 hurricanes are catastrophic and can wipe out houses, buildings, and infrastructure like highways and local roads which are needed for shipping. Ports are especially affected since they are right on the coast where the majority of a hurricane’s power will break. Major flooding, debris and downed wires make it next to impossible for businesses to be able to move shipments in and out of certain areas that were affected.
When Category 4 Hurricane Florence hit the east coast on September 18, 2018, many roads and rail connections were affected which remained shut down even after the impact. This eventually resulted in a halt of shipments and deliveries being made on time, or at all. Grocery store shelves remained unstocked, bottled water was hard to come by and other necessary emergency products were only slowly supplied to those most in need of them.
Businesses in areas that are at risk of hurricanes must prepare in advance for the possibility of a natural disaster. This is the best way to fully recover from the impact and supply their customers during and immediately following the storm.
What Can Businesses Do to Prepare Their Supply Chains for a Hurricane?
With any business in the path of a hurricane, preparedness is key. Companies in the past have lost market share due to their lack of preparation and failure to completely recover after a natural disaster. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, about 40% of companies are not able to return back to normal operations following the impact of a disaster.
However, there are a number of ways that businesses can prepare for impact. A few ideas to protect your supply chain include:
- • Identifying if you are in an area at-risk of dangerous weather impacts. While this may seem easy and obvious, many businesses surprisingly fail to keep that in mind when deciding on the best location to operate their business. Simply knowing that your business can be in danger of hurricanes is an easy gateway to finding the right tools to prepare and recover.
- • Gaining complete visibility to your supply chain operations. If you have total visibility over your supply chain operations, your company will be best-positioned to react to a hurricane or other natural disaster. Knowing where your shipments are, being able to quickly rate and book with the best carriers and being able to track orders in real-time will give you an edge when a wrong decision can result in them never arriving. Companies can gain this level of visibility by implementing transportation management technology ahead of time.
- • Have an insurance plan. Not only can insurance provide protection against loss, it can save a lot of money that would have to be paid to restore damages. Flood insurance may be a great option, or even a requirement, for businesses located in high-risk areas.
- • Have reliable back-up partners. Having back-up partners can be very helpful because companies are able to move product via drop trailer to locations that are outside of harm’s way when a hurricane is approaching. There is a possibility that availability can be limited, so it’s crucial to have these conversations with your partners far in advance. Truckload spot markets like Kuebix Community Load Match give shippers an easy path to find and book reliable spot volume quickly.
- • Learning from the past can prevent problems in the future. Data and analytics can help businesses keep track of their supply chain operations (how well or poorly they performed) during a storm. Being able to see what shipped, when, how long it took and for what cost helps businesses strategically plan for the next time a hurricane hits.
What Happens in the Aftermath of a Storm?
In the case of extreme devastation, helping families and people in need is a top priority. While supply chain managers need to make sure their employees are all safe and well, they also need to work for a speedy recovery of their business. According to the Olin Business School, redundancy and operational flexibility are important processes of dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster.
Since these disasters are frequently unpredictable, it is better to be safe than sorry and have a back-up plan to conquer the difficulties that the disaster can cause. With hurricane season upon us, remember to stay informed of weather events, leverage technology to retain visibility to your supply chain and have back-up plans in place ahead of time. With these tools, your company will be able to weather the storm!