Snow disruption freezes supply chain efficiency

3 December 2010
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Snow costs economy estimated £1.35 billion
Staff shortages to hit logistics sector

Retailers' smaller stock orders cause supply problems
Electrical goods stocks low for Christmas

4 December 2010 | Angeline Albert

Shortages of fuel, food and other basic supplies caused by bad weather can be prevented with stronger supply chain contingency plans, professional groups have said.  

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said its members are reporting appalling road conditions in Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Cumbria and the Grampian regions, which is stopping fuel and basic goods getting to petrol stations and shops.

David Scott-Smith, RHA’s area manager for London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex said better supply chain planning by retailers in response to snow forecasts could alleviate shortages in the future.

“The transport sector has been hit severely again by snow. Two weeks ago, this cold wintry spell was predicted. Supermarkets and garages should stockpile and over-subscribe to mitigate for such a snow warning,” he said. 

The RHA said a large petrol distribution centre in Hamble, Southampton, has been shut down because its staff could not get there.

Scott-Smith added: “The lack of staff meant not enough people to load goods onto vehicles. Fuel and food deliveries have been seriously affected. We’ve had reports of farmers having to tip milk down drains because the milk tankers can’t get down country lanes. The cows have to be milked regardless but if farmers exceed their milk storage capacity and the tanker doesn’t arrive there’s no choice.”

In a separate warning, CIPS CEO David Noble, said yet more winter weather disruption was proof enough that the UK needs tougher supply chain contingency plans. “Although many local councils are better prepared than last year, budgets are stretched and it shows. It’s also distressing that shortages of basic supplies such as food and fuel are on the agenda again. More needs to be done to ensure that supply chains are robust and flexible enough to cope with changes in demand, and ensure people can get on with their day-to-day lives,” he said.

“Local authorities and businesses must take the initiative and work more collaboratively to guarantee stocks of essential supplies, when transportation inevitably becomes more difficult. The burden of keeping larger stocks could be shared and overall costs can be kept down by buying in bulk.”

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