Supply chain continuity planning has always been essential for eCommerce businesses to ensure continuity of supply, but in an environment of ongoing disruptions, shortages, and vulnerabilities, it’s more important than ever to double down on planning.
A continuously updated plan is critical to the well-being of your supply chain and your business. Are you prepared for the next supply chain upheaval?
What is supply chain continuity?
Supply chain continuity is defined as the ability to maintain a consistent and timely flow of products and services from suppliers to customers is crucial in protecting the critical business operations of an organization and its stakeholders. This involves ensuring uninterrupted delivery within acceptable timeframes.
4 steps to build a supply chain continuity plan
The building blocks of supply chain continuity planning are accurately mapping the value chain and building collaborative relationships with internal and external vendors. Here are four essential steps for continuity planning.
Map your supply chain
Review your supply chain to identify your most critical suppliers. In addition, conduct a risk assessment look for the elements in procurement with the most significant potential risks. Where the two lists intersect is your top priority for contingency and backup planning.
Diversify your supply chain
After almost three years of a global pandemic and other supply chain disruptions, diversification is standard wisdom. The key to supply continuity planning is to update your diversification plans regularly. That second supplier you added six months ago may now be at capacity and no longer able to handle your inventory in the event your primary supplier fails. Keep looking at different factories, transport operators, and geographic regions to diversify your global supply chains.
Work with suppliers on contingency planning
Taking control of your entire supply chain doesn’t mean managing it from the top down. A best practice in supply chain management is to include your vendors in your supply continuity planning process as much as possible. Your vendors may bring new ideas, and giving them a seat at the planning table will help them become better partners in stabilizing your supply.
Promote omnidirectional supply chain visibility
Supply chain visibility starts with your real-time view of all value chain elements, but it doesn’t end there. When you empower your vendors to share information, you add to the value each brings to your enterprise.
Your fulfillment partner is a supply continuity resource
The right eCommerce fulfillment partner can be a vital resource in helping you prepare for and weather supply chain shocks. Your 3PL is more than a pick and pack warehouse; it’s also a storehouse of knowledge garnered from many clients that can help you plan for the future.
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we know that we are successful when our clients’ businesses are booming. We see ourselves as partners, and we use our knowledge base to help our clients optimize their supply chain continuity.
Your order fulfillment company can be a vital ally in managing your supply chain. Here are just a few ways that the best 3PLs help eCommerce companies improve their supply chain continuity planning.
Two-way communication between factory and warehouse
Are there changes that the factory can make to improve fulfillment? How can fulfillment support manufacturing? Rather than seeing these two entities as separate, connected only by freight deliveries, share insights in both directions.
For instance, a slight change in packaging at the factory might eliminate dimensional weight charges, saving you a lot of money on shipping. Or your 3PL could use kitting to correct a product assembly error without sending stock back to the factory.
Fast turnaround for backorders
Despite your best continuity plans, you may end up taking backorders. So work with your 3PL to craft a plan to reduce the hassle of backorders for your customers.
For example, cross docking can quickly turn an inbound shipment of stock into outbound orders, shortening the time your customers have to wait for their products.
Flexible storage space
Flexibility is essential to supply chain continuity. One quarter, you may be able to source a SKU on a JIT basis and keep your warehouse space to a minimum. In the next quarter, a spike in demand or a transport backlog could require an inventory buildup. Work with your 3PL to ensure that you have the storage you need when you need it.
Diversified delivery options
International shipping isn’t the only transport system struggling with delays. While customer delivery companies within the U.S. have mostly resolved the holiday delivery capacity issues that slowed order delivery in the past, there are still bugs in the system.
The answer is to seek diversified delivery options, such as local carriers and LTL freight, when FedEx, UPS, and USPS can’t carry the load. Having a flexible carrier selection can improve your order delivery even more.
Your 3PL probably ships thousands of parcels for hundreds of clients, so the staff is a terrific source of wisdom about best practices and things to avoid. Lean on your fulfillment partner to help you build your supply chain continuity plan and solve each new problem that arises.
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we know that every eCommerce business is similar to other online sellers yet still completely unique. We work with each client to ensure we create SOPs for your fulfillment that meet your specific needs. We promise that we will strive never to be the spot where your supply chain falls apart.
Have you optimized your fulfillment partner?
When your eCommerce fulfillment operations fall apart, your supply chain grinds to a halt. The founders of Red Stag Fulfillment learned that firsthand when their 3PL failed to ship their holiday orders. As they picked through a warehouse strewn with bits of packaging to find their stock and ship the orders themselves, they knew they needed a better solution.
Red Stag Fulfillment’s founders recognized the value of fulfillment tailored to the needs of the eCommerce enterprise. They built a company that provided the kind of pick and pack services their growing businesses needed and then offered those services, with their exacting level of accuracy, to the eCommerce industry.
Optimizing your fulfillment partner means more than finding a 3PL that provides high-quality service (though that is critical). You need a fulfillment company that also meets these criteria:
- Expert in shipping products like yours
- Warehouse locations to reach your customers quickly
- Service levels (such as same-day fulfillment) to meet customer expectations for fast delivery
- Additional services (cold storage, food certification, kitting, oversized shipping, etc.) that your company needs
Red Stag Fulfillment helps eCommerce businesses thrive
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we have had the privilege of seeing what happens when a promising company gets the benefit of top-notch fulfillment. We’ve watched them grow and scale, fulfilling their potential to become wildly successful enterprises.
Supply chain continuity planning is critical to your growth, and your fulfillment partner is an essential piece of that puzzle. Red Stag Fulfillment offers industry-leading 3PL services to all kinds of companies, and we’re one of the few 3PLs that also supports heavy, oversized, and high-value products. We might just be the optimal fulfillment company for you.
More about eCommerce continuity planning:
- Building an ECommerce Business Continuity Plan
- What Roles Can a Resilient Distribution Partner Play in Supply Chain Resilience?
- What Are Forecasting Systems for Production and Inventory Control?