Felixstowe strikes: what more strike action means for supply chains

The news of further industrial action at the UK’s biggest container port might seem to be a further reason to worry for British retailers ahead of peak season. However, after what is now years of pandemic-induced disruption across our supply chains, many of the most innovative UK businesses are well equipped to navigate disturbances on this scale. Which means we need to rethink the true cost of these strikes.

Previously, major industrial action would cause huge disruption. Businesses of every kind would struggle to deliver products and manage their supply chains. Now, however, it is just another bump in the road for some. Recent global events such as the Suez Canal blockage and port lockdowns in China have highlighted the strategic importance of speed and agility in supply chain management.

Read more: Supply chains will never 'return to normal'

This strike will not be universally painful. Businesses that have been able to prepare and invest in their supply chains have moved from a “just in time” approach to “just in case." - While this approach works for some industries, others have had difficulty even sourcing the materials needed for it. For example, automotive companies have struggled because of trouble sourcing microchips. They will continue to be stuck playing industry catch-up. 

Fast fashion and pharmaceuticals, on the other hand, are more likely to have “just in case” strategies in place. Fashion is especially well suited to this kind of planning. While pharmaceuticals and healthcare have shifted quite heavily toward holding excess inventory, they now have a tendency to overstock. Several businesses have also invested in additional capacity and inventory buffers to provide extra resilience.

Many forward-thinking businesses will have also been considering alternatives and tools they need to plan for these circumstances.  These companies are prepared to use airfreight and other options and will have used agile supply chain tools to lessen their impact.  

Learn more: 4 critical supply chain trends from industry expert Graham Slack [blog + video]

We work with a lot of companies that proactively planned their logistics routes differently because they knew these strikes were coming. For some, being able to explore their options with our platform meant switching from Royal Mail parcel deliveries during their recent strike. Since then, according to our data, most of them have not moved back. 

Strikes like this have shifted the responsibility for disruption impact back onto businesses. With how complex and turbulent the past few years have been, not anticipating, and planning for, disruption can’t happen anymore. The tools to plan for scenarios like this and to build in margins and contingencies are there. It’s down to businesses to use them and limit the impact these issues can have.

 

Want to build a more resilient supply chain? Need to know how you can bounce back when things get hectic? Talk to us about how AI can make your supply chain more agile.

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