Is the supply chain ready for a white Christmas?

12 December 2012
Headshot of Denise Oakley, international marketing director, GXSAs both online and offline retailers get to grips with the busy Christmas period, end-to-end supply chain visibility has never been so important to ensure the smooth flow of goods from the manufacturers to distribution centres or shop shelves. Capgemini’s e-Retail Sales Index predicts a 15 per cent rise in online shopping to £4.6 billion this festive season compared with last year, meaning the supply chain will be stretched more than ever. It’s hard to predict when the next supply chain disruption will occur, whether it is a great snow storm or big freeze, throwing the transport network into disarray and affecting product lead times. We can’t forecast the weather with real accuracy, but what we can be sure of is the risk of supply chain disruption from natural disasters is a recurring and regular theme. And it isn’t just cataclysmic weather conditions that can affect logistics teams and a consumer’s Christmas shopping list. Earlier this year, low rainfall followed by a summer of downpours resulted in poor crops and a UK potato shortage, which meant stocks had to be sourced from alternative locations overseas. To avoid supply chain disruptions, business-to-business (B2B) integration technology is needed to connect these new sources to ensure a retailer’s offering remains strong. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, retailers need to maintain their reputation – they can’t afford to rely on a few suppliers in nearby locations when weather is proving to be a decisive factor. Reacting to and planning for these disruptions requires an agile trading platform with the need to sign up new suppliers, some of which will be in new geographic locations, to trade electronically. While we can’t do much about the weather itself, B2B integration can support an organisation’s contingency plans to make sure they work well, regardless of what comes its way unexpectedly. ☛ Denise Oakley is international marketing director at GXS
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