Snowy conditions fuel innovation

11 January 2010
11 January 2010 | Amy Rowe

Purchasers across the UK have been forced to get creative to secure supplies during adverse weather conditions.

A number of small businesses have met suppliers halfway as road vehicles struggle to travel in icy conditions. Others have been working closely with logistics vendors or calling on backup supplies.

Stephen Alambritis, chief spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses, told SM: “Some companies are actually meeting their suppliers to swap goods over on motorways if access is difficult, and buyers are also ordering a much higher volume of stock than usual. Organisations are helping each other out, and being more flexible.”

Other purchasers were able to minimise stock shortages by keeping essential supplies stored nearby. For example, Helen Baker, head of procurement at the University of the West of England, uses a warehouse a short way off campus and was able to offset problems with paper supplies.

She told SM: “We’ve got the warehouse in place as a buffer for adverse weather conditions like this. Our photocopying paper supplier was travelling from Manchester and couldn’t get here, but we stock all essential supplies so it wasn’t a problem.”

Elsewhere, local authorities across the country have been sharing salt supplies to grit roads and pavements, according to David Sparks, chair of the Local Government Association’s transport and regeneration board.

However the nature of some commodities means even creativity cannot help.

Hauliers collecting milk supplies for distribution have been unable to get through to farms in the UK’s worst hit areas, including the South West, South East and Wales. This has reportedly resulted in thousands of litres of milk being thrown away.

But despite losses of supplies, logistics vendor Wincanton has been working with buyers to get around the issue. A spokesperson said: “Like all transport businesses, Wincanton has been affected by the heavy snow fall and icy conditions, but we’ve been working with its customers to minimise its impact and, where possible, has bolstered transport fleets to ensure that deliveries are made.” 

CIPS chief executive David Noble discussed how bad weather is affecting supply chains on BBC Radio 5 live last week.

* Add a comment to let us know how you’ve been coping with supply and demand, or to tell us of problems you’ve had because of the ice and snow
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