Hurricanes, floods, fires, and blizzards are a few supply chain problems that most small businesses aren’t prepared for when they happen. Surviving weather disruptions is essential to growing your company and building trust with your customers. Although major weather disruptions may still cause delays, here are three methods to minimize their impact and continue to deliver on time.
Multiple Sourcing in Separate Demographic Locations
Toyota is famous for investing in its vendors. It understands the importance of having multiple sources for each part that goes into its cars. If one of its vendors has a problem, then it has another supplier to provide the part needed to keep production going. However, until the 1995 Kobe earthquake, most of Toyota’s multiple vendors were in the same geographic location. That earthquake paralyzed the entire region, including many Toyota vendors that were backup suppliers in the same region. Interestingly, after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the same problem occurred with the suppliers that sold to Toyota’s suppliers. Since then, Toyota has expanded its network of first and second tier suppliers to avoid problems caused by weather disruptions in particular areas. Geographic diversification, even at slightly higher prices, is essential to avoid supply chain disruptions in the wake of extreme weather or natural disasters. Even small businesses can follow Toyota’s example and diversify where they obtain their key parts.
Anticipate Upcoming Weather Disruptions
Unlike natural disasters, extreme weather usually has some advance notice. Whether it’s a couple days or just a couple hours, that short time before the weather hits is essential. Contact your customers and see if there is anything they recommend you do. Chances are your customers have plans on how to respond to the weather, but in the middle of other preparations, they may have neglected to inform you. Contacting them and coordinating your strategy can build trust and understanding. Expedited shipping, postponing orders, or changing quantities may be enough to avoid supply chain disruptions. Despite your best efforts, extreme weather may make delays or stockouts inevitable. However, if your customers know you are fighting alongside them, then you can alleviate many of their frustrations that would normally exist if you do not communicate well with them.
Apologize and Delight
Despite your best efforts, chances are that any major weather event will still delay some shipments. The key to minimizing problems is to communicate clearly what is delayed, when it will realistically arrive, and your regret for the problem – even if it’s not your fault. These actions will calm most frustration, but this is also an opportunity to shine. Consider sending your customers a small extra with their order as a “thank you” for their patience. Turning a frustrating experience into a good impression can go a long way in creating fans in your customer base. Your customers may not have complained to their friends about your product’s delay, but they will likely share what little extra you did for them because of it.
With these three simple methods, you’ll be able to keep your supply chain under control even when the weather isn’t.
What experiences do you have with weather impeding your supply chain? Feel free to share your successes or pitfalls with weather in a comment below so that we can all learn. In addition, be sure to subscribe to receive future articles.