The Wet Season – How secure is your supply chain?

Coming into the wet season, I find a lot of customers gambling with their supply chain. Each year our road and rail links get severed by flooding. Each and every year without fail.

The only thing we don’t know is where or when. But we do know the locations most likely to be severely impacted. The Northern Territory and Regional Queensland. Some years are better than others, but without fail it does happen every year. Generally the closure is only for a few days, which is manageable for most businesses, in other years, the damage is catastrophic.

In 2009, there were massive floods in Western Queensland. The company I was working for at the time had multiple road trains stuck between Mitchell and Camooweal. Some were lucky enough just to be trapped. Others were literally swamped. At least two of these units were refrigerated – depending on a finite supply of diesel. Frozen and chiller trailers were prioritised, and the produce loads were left to rot. I can tell you that it was not pleasant cleaning these out a week later. If any of those clients were uninsured, that could have had severe implications for their solvency.

To make matters worse, a 2km stretch of the Barkly Highway was washed away, leaving no alternate road access to the Central and West north of Port Augusta, on the South Australia Coast. Whilst we were able to send trucks via Port Augusta, this meant an extra 1,390kms of running with just a double road train. My company responded with imposing a 57% surcharge on customers requiring this service. We also arranged rail services, again via Adelaide, but this service attracted a 30% surcharge and took 9 days.

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In 2011 during the massive Brisbane and Queensland floods, I was working with Woolworths managing their Brisbane Crossdock Distribution Centre. We struggled to get staff, due to pressing personal issues; We struggled to get freight from Sydney and Melbourne due to flooding in Northern New South Wales and we couldn’t get freight to Central, West and North Queensland due to flooding. We had tried every open road, only to find that they closed before our units arrived. In attempting to send trucks north, via the West we ended up with these units getting chased south into NSW by flood water.

In the end, both Woolworths and Coles were forced to utilise RAAF C17 and C130 aircraft to fly essential groceries to Townsville for distribution.

 

The question for your business is, what happens if you cannot replenish supplies for two weeks? Can you cope with that? Is it worth holding a little extra critical stock over the wet season, just in case? Can you source product from a different location if required? If you want to explore contingency plans with us, please get in touch, we are only too happy to assist.

Read Elliot’s bio here.

News links:

SMH – Supermarkets enlist big guns to get food to stores

RAAF 2011 Floods Logistics Support

ABC – The Barkley Hwy hit by floods

ABC – NT Govt defensive after Barkly Hwy flood damage

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