Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

4 Tips to Ensure the Upcoming Eclipse Doesn’t Leave Your Supply Chain in the Dark

solar_eclipseFrom hurricanes to cyber-attacks, supply chain managers have to anticipate and manage the impacts of unplanned disruptions. While most disruptions occur without warning, sometimes shippers and logistics providers do have an opportunity to see one coming and plan accordingly.

Such is the case for the solar eclipse that will occur across the United States next week. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), this rare occurrence has the potential to impact millions of truck drivers, especially those moving freight across or within the 14 states that are in the path of totality.

Transport Topics reported that several states are taking measures to limit truck traffic in anticipation of heavy traffic from the influx of tourism to the area. Most of the limitations apply to over dimensional, over height, or overweight loads in the days surrounding the eclipse. The Oregon Department of Transportation states the eclipse will cause “the biggest traffic event in Oregon history.” The state is regulating that no over-width loads are allowed to operate anywhere in Oregon from noon on Friday, August 18, through 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, August 22.

These restrictions—in combination of the high likelihood of traffic delays when travel is allowed— present a challenge to all trading partners, from carriers to suppliers to end customers. The situation also highlights the importance of contingency planning, visibility, and connectivity throughout your supply chain.

There are several immediate steps you can take to prepare in advance of a forecasted disruption:


  1. Communicate ahead of time.

Before the restrictions or impending disruption occurs, get in touch with trading partners to discuss a proactive logistics strategy. Facilities, like warehouses, that are located in impacted areas can offer valuable information and a localized perspective of the road ahead. These initial discussions provide an opportunity to review your freight plans and how transportation schedules might need to be adjusted. It’s also important to work with carriers to understand how rates and capacity could be impacted.

  1. Deploy dock management tools.

These tools enable you to prioritize loads and reconfigure your distribution plans as needed. They can also be used to identify backup routes and freight facilities. Make sure that your trading providers have visibility into these tools and can make agreed adjustments when required.

  1. Leverage technology.

Proactive planning that is supported by a transportation management system (TMS) provides the connectivity, integration, and visibility you need to minimize and prepare for disruptions. Real-time visibility to your supply chain is necessary to build a responsive, resilient, competitive, and profitable strategy. Technology that gives you the visibility to the current state of your shipments and what they may encounter en route is crucial.

Connectivity to your transportation service providers is also essential. Technology applications that pull real-time GPS locations from drivers’ smartphones at pre-defined increments provide valuable location services that allow you to be the first to know about shipment status updates, delay notifications, or disruptions so you can respond, adapt, and keep customers informed.

  1. Use historical data.

Certain disruptions require specific insights. For example, do the mix of modes used, length of haul, and the type of cargo in transit heighten the risk of a delay in areas that are impacted? Which high-impact loads can be rerouted around those zones? And, what does historical data tell you about traffic or other disruptions in your areas of operation?

The future of disruption management

As supply chain technology advances, shippers are now able to apply predictive analysis and disruptive modeling to proactively track, monitor, and react to disruptions before they even occur.

Understanding impending supply chain disruptions early will allow shippers to adjust their transportation strategy and accommodate or avoid the disruption. When businesses have time to adjust, they can operate more efficiently and potentially avoid disruptions, improving their outcomes.

When shippers and carriers can be predictive and prescriptive, they can take actions to lessen the impact to supply chains and their businesses. Shippers can work to find alternative options to help ensure their products still reach their customers, while carriers can move capacity out of an impacted area before drivers and trucks become stranded. These types of movements could prevent impacts in the immediate area, but also throughout the supply chain.

How do you leverage providers and technology to drive success? For more ideas on how to prepare your supply chain for disruptions, download our white paper, Add Resilience to Supply Chains.

- Customer Relations Manager, TMC