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 are probably running your small business as lean as possible, receiving shipments just in time to fill customer orders. That is normally a good idea. However, supply chain disruptions can prove fatal if you are 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? We 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 will know which ones are the most dependable. If one supplier can’t deliver, maybe another one can. It is a good idea to have multiple options because you never know when they will come in handy. And when an emergency arrives, it is too late to try to plan for it. You either have a plan in place or it will be a difficult time for your business. 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 did not 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. You can study trends in reports to see when is the best time to have more products on hand than you normally do.
3. Rain Checks. If stocking up on products does not 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 are looking for. Even drop shipping could be a good option to avoid rain checks or keep them as brief as possible.
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.
To deal with inclement weather disrupting your supply chain, you can use these four strategies:
- Have a backup plan involving multiple vendors to increase your options.
- Stock up on popular products early in the season so you won’t run out.
- Issue rain checks so customers will get their products when they are available.
- Try to plan ahead for bad weather when it is most likely to strike.