The children’s card game of “Go Fish” is a great guessing game, but not when you are running a global supply chain in the face of increasing congestion and delays.
Our clients are acutely aware of what is happening at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. We’re close to the action and even we cannot fathom why things continue to worsen instead of improve. Admittedly, the negotiations between employers and labor has dragged on far longer than anyone anticipated, and taken in a vacuum, one could point all the blame at both parties.
But it goes further than that.
- The worst winter in decades put rail equipment out of place to move intermodal shipment on and off the terminals.
- Carriers getting out of the chassis business created complications and confusion with containers in one place and their respective wheels in another.
- In an effort to maximize economies of scale, vessels aren’t getting smaller, they’re getting larger.
- Alliances between carriers that make financial sense across the water break down when the terminals they call are not equipped to handle a carrier’s containers.
So what is a supply chain to do? Well, many have reacted by dramatically increasing their usage of air freight, which will have a significant impact on their bottom line profitability (depending upon whether or not you’re an airline or a retailer, this is alternately great or devastating).
We have reminded our clients that now more than ever, transparency is the key to our shared success. Just as they have shared their inventory and fulfillment plans with us, so do we now need to keep visiting those discussions, working to prioritize cargo that is overdue and late in shipping identify the most critical needs and meet them. Some are prioritizing by their retail customers who charge the highest penalties for late or non-delivery. Others put their best-selling products at the front of the line for fulfillment. Still more are making efforts to fill JIT inventory that is at critical replenishment levels.
At Flex, we can accommodate just about any reasonable request for our clients or companies who are looking to work with us. What we ask, though, is to give us the critical information that we need to prioritize ourselves for container recoveries, devanning and shipping needs that will help our clients deliver solutions in this challenging environment with which we are all coping.