3 Lessons from the West Coast Shipping Delays

March 12, 2015

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Regardless of who you blame for the port shutdown that has wreaked havoc on the shipping world, several lessons emerged about what this means for your supply chain. Like it or not, it was probably something that impacted you directly or indirectly. So this is a perfect time to look for lessons that will help you be better prepared for the next logistic challenge that hits your business.

Lesson 1: Delays are Inevitable

Labor disputes were at the heart of this most recent cause, but delays can happen anywhere along your supply chain. Highways can get shut down due to snowstorms (see Atlanta last year), ships can break down or the inevitable coastline attacks from Godzilla.

A few logistics managers were pulling their hair out as their cargo sat swaying in the sea exposed to the elements longer than they had prepared. All of a sudden, the engineering expertise behind the packaging mattered a lot more than it did when everything was in order. Those with the right packaging partner were sleeping a lot better than the other guys.

Lesson 2: Delays Cause Ripple Effects

If a butterfly flaps its wings in the Philippines, does that cause a tornado in Kansas?

Caption “Darn you, butterflies!!”

In reality, the impact of shipping delays reach far. The most recent west coast port disputes impacted obvious shipments like fruits and vegetables but also affected beef production in Asia, who relies on animal feed from America or tire production who couldn’t get the rubber they needed for manufacturing. This doesn’t even begin to touch the increase in freight costs for everyone else when shipping comes to a halt either by manmade or natural causes.

Additionally, the ripple effects will be felt for some time even though an agreement has been reached. Many predict it will be months before the backlog of cargo ships are loaded and unloaded and everything returns to normal.

Lesson 3: Your Packaging Needs to Be Thoughtful

Whether you’re shipping apples to Argentina, electronics to Egypt or bicycles to Belgium, each package needs to be engineered for every unique challenge. It’s not enough to throw it in a box and hope for the best, not in the competitive global market. Unforeseen delays, like we just saw out west, are the times great companies separate themselves from the rest of the pack. This is the time those who invest in their supply chain prove what a valuable partner they are.

Is your packaging ready for anything? Smart packaging doesn’t just mean something that can withstand a clumsy warehouse worker. The right package means designing for contingencies along the supply chain and reducing the risk of loss on the journey.

If you want packaging that works, no matter the challenge, it’s time to talk with our our engineers. Contact us today to see how we can keep your packaging moving forward, even if its stuck at sea.