In an ideal world, every shipment departs a facility and travels to the end consumer with a perfectly efficient process. But in the real world, there are times when delays are unavoidable as a result of uncontrollable circumstances: weather, labor strikes, Acts of God, etc.
As more and more shippers become focused on streamlining their supply chains and gaining new levels of visibility into their shipments, there is the realization that sometimes, uncontrollable circumstances impact the best of plans. With unpredictable weather patterns on the rise, these situations may become more prevalent and more challenging. However, simply monitoring these conditions to ensure we can predict potential delays just isn’t enough.
I’ve been in the transportation industry for more time than I’d like to admit. Let’s just say, multiple decades. I was there during the UPS strike in the 1980’s (it was a 16-day strike if you can imagine), as well as embargos, extreme weather events and more. I recall looking out into the warehouse and seeing piles of freight to the ceiling with little to no room for forklifts or equipment. The overflow of cargo was trickling out into the parking lot at times. It was frankly, overwhelming. And unsafe.
In today’s world driven by technology, we are able to make more informed decisions when occurrences such as a strike could take place. The technology at our fingertips can help with instant visibility into transportation routings, flight availability, truck bookings, labor availability, online weather monitoring and more. But knowing is only half the battle – how can we change the movement of our goods when one of these events decides to take over?
One solution we have at our disposal is the ability to utilize various transportation methods and modes. In the air cargo world, most commercial airlines have hubs that are their main transfer locations for cargo. For example, United Airlines has hubs in Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, Houston, Newark, and Washington DC. A severe weather event in any of these hubs can bring a carrier to a halt, resulting in multiple flight cancellations and delays. Many shipments connect through these hubs and would have to be rerouted by the airline. I remember the winter of 1999 in Chicago. It was one of the record snow events with over 21 inches of snow in a short period of time that had high winds creating 6’ drifts. Snow plows could not keep up with the roads and the airports were shut down. We relied heavily on TV news programs to provide weather and closure updates. At that time, there weren’t readily available internet sites that solved for these situations. So while we may not have been able to minimize the movement of goods that originated in Chicago, we could have worked to reroute other cargo if we had today’s technology in place.
Maergo’s business is to deliver packages within a 2-3 day delivery time. So getting packages in transit despite unavoidable challenges is something we had to figure out. When we see trouble, the technology Maergo has invested in allows us to quickly pivot to another service provider that may not utilize the same hub system or who may have no hub system at all. Being able to make a fast routing change in order to minimize delays is critical in today’s world of wanting goods delivered quickly. We’re on a mission to keep our brand promise. It’s not always easy for transport providers to pivot to another carrier the way we are able to. Other shippers may have an outdated operating system, or a lack of preparedness plans, or even a lack of back up carriers in place. If a carrier is an asset-based carrier that operates its own equipment, they may not be able to reroute their cargo to other carriers.
A lot of people I talk to think it’s easy to “transport a box from here to there”. But there are many moving parts required to make shipping successful that those outside of the industry are likely unaware of. The ability to divert shipments to alternate airports, airlines and other carriers is not always a simple task. There are regulatory hurdles to consider, as well as the actual physical transport. At Maergo, we are not constricted by our own internal transportation network because we utilize multiple carrier networks that allow for quick routing changes. Technology, communication and strong relationships are key to getting this done without disrupting our entire network.
As I’ve seen our internal team hustle and react quickly to recent ‘uncontrollable circumstances’, I’ve been in awe at our ability to pivot, think fast, and use technology to keep our packages moving. Being able to change airports, airlines, revert to ground transport if needed, and finding other solutions has been amazing to watch. It’s a lot different today than it was in the 1980’s.
Or so I’ve heard.