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Blown Away: Reconnecting broken supply chains

How to expect the unexpected?

Even with preparation, challenges are bound to arise in any disaster situation, and Matt Castle, C.H. Robinson’s vice president of global forwarding products and services, noted that the biggest challenge for the 3PL was controlling the balance of supply and demand as resources flowed into affected areas.

“You tend to have high concentration of product moving in one direction and very little coming out, so there’s a juggling or repositioning of capacity to meet back up with demand,” Castle said. Disaster events like the hurricanes also tend to drive up demand compared with what is typical in the marketplace, and “the challenge has been balance of equipment” to accommodate a high shipment demand with limited capacity.

Reinstating normal service has not been a simple matter of flipping the lights back on, either. As Soell explained, Delta installed large generators to make sure its cargo facilities were operational as quickly as possible, even without the power infrastructure in place. The carrier emphasized that taking care of its employees to ensure appropriate staffing, and keeping customers updated on shipment deliveries, were also vital for keeping cargo moving smoothly in San Juan.

The biggest strength freight forwarders have, from Castle’s perspective, is their ability to quickly adapt to changing situations during disaster scenarios.

Castle concluded with an example of freight moving to Latin America from Asia, with Miami as a historically common relay point. But with the emergence of Middle Eastern and European carriers, as well as plenty of charter capacity currenlty available, there are more choices available for serving the region.

“I think it’s the ability to look at what’s out there and make choices that cause the least amount of disruptions and support what customers are looking for.”

See sidebar on avoiding disasters with ‘big data’

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