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June 21, 2023
The secret weapon of successful shipping: contingency planning
It’s inevitable in transportation: disruptions happen. Loading docks get overcrowded. Trucks get flat tires. Inventory dwindles. Blizzards close roads.

The impacts to shippers can range from the minor, such as a slightly delayed load, to something major that can lead to an organization’s operations totally seizing up.

Regardless, it behooves every shipper to prepare for such inevitabilities by having a contingency plan in place. It may sound obvious, but it can go a long way to keeping your pallets flowing and avoiding significant disruptions.

“We make our operations work smoothly by planning tomorrow’s shipments well in advance,” says Michael Lardakis, the Director of Logistics for Reach, a third-party logistics provider that ships inbound to Amazon. Lardakis has helped create his organization’s plan B for when issues arise. “As shippers, we can always feel like we’re on our back foot, so we must take the time to get ahead and prepare.”

It’s especially important during these current times of uncertainty. Capacity can swing at any moment and the economy continues to send mixed signals. In short, preparing now is essential. Here’s some guidance to get you started.

Don’t operate at 110%
Sound planning starts with adhering to the philosophy of not running your operations “hot” all day, every day. Every shipping organization is seeking to maximize the flow of goods in their system. That’s how efficiencies and economies of scale are achieved. But it comes with risks, because there is little room for error. When disruptions happen, they can shut down the entire system.

“It’s like walking on a tightrope. One small wrong step can mean game over,” says Lardakis. The holiday shopping season is a prime example of this when businesses are at peak volumes and hurriedly trying to get items off their loading docks.

During this time, Lardakis experiences the inevitable surge in holiday advent calendar orders every November. To prepare, he ensures his team always has a backup inventory of calendars that they can tap into just in case something goes wrong.

And, as an Amazon Seller, he is always prepared to toggle on his “merchant fulfilled listing” while awaiting receipt of the inventory that will be fulfilled by Amazon. In other words, he’s ready to send advent calendars directly to customers if needed.

See and be heard
There’s also the element of communication and having a plan and open channels with all parties and stakeholders. Savvy shippers conduct regular meetings and reviews with their transportation partners. Scheduling periodic meetings, both internally and externally, creates dedicated time to discuss supply chain performance and address areas of concern. The sessions offer opportunities to share updates, clarify expectations, and strengthen relationships.

To ensure everyone is on the same page, shippers should develop standardized communication protocols to prevent miscommunications and enhance coordination. This includes defining communication channels, frequency of updates, and the proper points of contact. “You always want to be able to pick up the phone and know who to call when you need information quickly,” says Lardakis.

Finally, visibility into your shipments is key. Technology allows trailers to have GPS tracking so shippers have end-to-end awareness of where their loads are. Part of your contingency plan should be remaining vigilant about the status of your shipments and be ready to reroute if needed.

Making it happen, find a partner
It goes without saying that contingency planning is best done during your slow times. It’s not something you want to tackle while in the thick of peak and holiday seasons. Take advantage of the lulls to assess your deficiencies and what you can prepare for next time.

“The importance of having a backup plan cannot be stressed enough,” says Max Sadler, Amazon Freight’s Head of Inbound Sales. Sadler should know. He works with shippers every day and was an Amazon Seller himself, so he understands the harried pace shippers operate at. But just important, says Sadler, is for shippers to find a freight partner that understands their business and can help plan and mitigate.

That’s where Amazon Freight comes in with its dedicated transportation consultants and 24/7/365 operations team support. They are backed by the larger Amazon network, cutting-edge technology, and more than 50,000 trailers and carriers – a smart complement to any shipper’s contingency plan.

Want to see what Amazon Freight can do for your shipping needs? See why shippers choose us and then create an account here to start booking immediately.
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