Control over the end-to-end supply chain lies in careful planning of both inbound and outbound activities, and without doubt, disasters and emergencies will eventually arise. The responsiveness of the supply chain depends on the ability of shippers to rapidly increase shipment volume to meet demand, as well as the ability of carriers to heed those demands. Moreover, sharing the right information in shipping urgency, including whether it is a true emergency shipping need, can literally be the difference between life and death, especially in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. So, let’s look at emergency shipping amid uncertainty and how a data driven TMS (transportation management system) can help.
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What’s Wrong With Current Emergency Shipping Management Strategies
The biggest problem with current emergency shipping management strategies lies in the lack of standardization for expedited, urgent, and emergency shipping needs. Some carriers may offer an expedited service, such as same-day delivery, but even still, there is a degree of risk in the supply chain. To clear the confusion, shippers must define the characteristics of the shipment and its urgency. For example, consider this breakdown:
- Expedited shipping—Valuable shipping that arrives faster, but it often carries a lower risk and costs less than absolute priority shipments.
- Priority, urgent shipments—These shipments have an added value, such as being health or pharmaceutical supplies. They are urgently needed, but their delivery can wait a day or two, provided appropriate chains of custody are maintained, as well as proper cold transport.
- Emergency shipments—Emergency shipments must have the highest priority. These shipments are urgently needed, almost needed yesterday, and they must go out immediately and avoid all unnecessary stops.
A Data Driven TMS Validates Time-Sensitivity to Speed Delivery
The only way to truly understand the time sensitivity of shipments and the chosen routes lies in seeing the whole shipment journey in advance. Shippers know when customers need to receive a product, so it is their best interest to recognize the actual time needed to move even the highest priority of items. As a result, the fastest option might be air freight, but if air freight is unavailable, ground delivery or rail may still suffice. This is where a data driven TMS adds value. Data driven TMS functions rely on real-time data to make informed decisions. For emergency shipments, namely emergency supplies to disaster-stricken areas, failure to consider real-time data will lead to delays. For instance, current travel restrictions have been in place and are now subject to checkpoints for shipments moving between Texas and Louisiana. Similar restrictions can be found almost anywhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, shippers need to think about the whole picture, and that is only possible when the TMS considers the whole picture too.
How to Leverage Emergency or Critical Shipping Needs With a TMS
Shippers that wish to leverage emergency or critical shipping needs with a TMS should follow these best practices.
- Ensure the Accuracy and Time Deadline of Your Critical Shipping Needs. This is the most obvious of best practices. Ensure your shipment takes actual priority. For instance, medical supplies have the highest priority for the foreseeable future, followed closely by groceries and household necessities.
- Verify Available Capacity, Not “It Might Be Available” Capacity. The next tip is to focus on available capacity, not projected capacity. Available capacity means it can go out now, but projections can change in an instant. Ensure your shipment can be picked up today and will arrive by tomorrow. PERIOD.
- Review the Carrier’s Terms for Guaranteed Delivery for Critical Items. Some carriers, such as FedEx, have suspended guarantees for delivery, but they may still be operating time definite services for crisis-related items.
- Remember the Impact of Politics or Customs on International, Critical Shipments. Politics and customs will always play a role in emergency shipping of supplies. Ensure your shipping strategy and solution rely on the latest information to avoid unnecessary delays.
- Continue to Adhere to Dynamic Inbound Freight Management Standards. Time-critical shipments within the TMS should also adhere to data driven TMS rulesets for managing inbound freight as well. After all, inbound freight is where your job really begins.
- Consolidate Time Critical Shipments Too. For shipments going to disaster areas, freight consolidation may still be an option, even with the highest of priorities assigned to the shipment. Similarly, evaluate the time availability, read “delivery deadline,” for all modes, not just air shipping.
- Eliminate Unnecessary, Non-Beneficial Touch Points. There will be times when consolidation is impractical or would take too much time to complete. Always evaluate the risks due to added touch points before engaging in consolidation or otherwise hindering the timely delivery of freight due to more stops and touch points.
- Insist on Around-the-Clock Monitoring. According to UPS, “having a monitoring system in place can help to alert logistics operators, so they can resolve such issues before problems become acute. But not every healthcare company has the technology or resources to oversee such tasks. It’s important to find a logistics provider who can expertly manage and track – and intervene, if necessary – to make sure your shipments are delivered in good condition and on time.”
Deploy End-to-End Visibility and Data Driven TMS Functions to Secure Emergency Shipping Processes Now
As the global supply chain continues to sway in response to changing market dynamics, proactive risk management means understanding the value of emergency shipping and leaving nothing to chance. This includes recognizing when your current, outdated systems will fall severely short, and depending on the shipment contents, lives could be at stake. Fortunately, the Cerasis Rater has the end-to-end capabilities, including last-mile tracking and management, to achieve the needed level of visibility and protection for emergency shipping.