Winter is an ugly time of year for businesses’ supply chains. Heavy snow, rain and other hazardous weather make it difficult for shipments to make it to their destinations on time or at all.
To be competitive, you’re probably running your small business as lean as possible, receiving shipments just in time to fill customer orders. That’s normally a good idea. However, supply chain disruptions can prove fatal if you’re not careful.
How can you deal with the challenges Mother Nature throws your way and make sure you have enough inventory on hand to meet consumer demand? I suggest four solutions to supply chain management:
1. Inventory Management Software. Inventory management software gives you access to in-depth information about your suppliers, sales, inventory needs and more. It can help you keep track of your relationships with suppliers so you’ll know which ones are the most dependable. If one supplier can’t deliver, maybe another one can. It’s good to have multiple options. Inventory management software also helps you know when to stock up on products or stay lean.
2. Ant’s Example. In Aesop’s fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, the ant worked hard all summer to stockpile enough food to last him through the winter while the grasshopper sang and played all summer and didn’t store anything. The result? The ant lived happily all winter, but the grasshopper went hungry. You can follow the ant’s example and stock up on products during the busy winter months before bad weather hits.
3. Rain Checks. If stocking up on products doesn’t seem like a smart choice for you, you can try simply giving rain checks to customers when they want a product you are out of. This is not an ideal solution because your customers leave your store empty-handed and they could be tempted to go to a competitor to get what they’re looking for.
4. Educated Guess. You can study weather patterns and make an educated guess about when snowstorms and other problematic weather will hit. Then you can adjust your inventory to coincide with those times. This solution requires a lot of work, but it could still be a good option. Be prepared to change your plans often as new weather information comes in.
With any luck, no matter what the weather is like, your business will be prepared and your supply chains will be up to the task. You can use many tactics to solve supply chain problems, such as using inventory management software, following the ant’s example, handing out rain checks or making educated guesses about the weather. Whichever one you choose, you should strive to put your customers’ needs first.