One of the problems faced by the supply chain industry from inception is shipping delays, which negatively impact the Expected Time of Arrival (ETA) of shipments, thereby causing problems for retailers and end users who cannot meet deadlines.
Both retailers and end users have felt the impact of these delays, and as a result, clients are dissatisfied, revenue is lost, needs are not met, projects are left unfinished, and brand images are tarnished. Even in the face of unusual events like wars, pandemics, and economic downturns, retailers still want their shipment's ETA to be met because they have back orders to fulfill for clients who expect their deliveries to be done on time and in full.
Causes of Shipping Delays
It is understandable that no business or retailer wants to experience any delay, but shipping delays are sometimes unavoidable and beyond the control of the supplier, the shipper, or the carrier. The question is, what causes shipping delays? How can we navigate through it to ensure that clients are satisfied and that our businesses come out unscathed?
Below are some of the causes of shipping delays.
Inaccurate shipping data: This may arise because of typographical errors from the retailer, the supplier, or the carrier, poor translation in cases where there is a language difference or outright sharing of wrong information like wrong address or phone number. When customers give incorrect addresses, it may result in delays. Suppliers and retailers need to properly document the customer's order, such as name or address in order for the courier company to have adequate information to deliver the package correctly.
Inadequate labor: Several things can lead to a shortage of workers, like the pandemic outbreak we had with COVID-19, industrial strikes, high cost of labor, and peak season demands. When there is a shortage of workers, this could lead to delay with the shipment's possible packaging and order fulfilment process. The shipping industry can only function maximally when the individuals who pick and pack orders, load and unload packages, and sort and transport them to the assigned destination, are readily available. Hence, any labor-related issues can hit the industry hard, resulting in delays.
Global occurrences or emergencies: Global events such as pandemics, wars, economic crises, natural disasters, and other emergencies can cause massive disruption in the shipping landscape. Unfortunately, industry players can't always control or foresee these emergencies despite all the available research and forecasts, making these delays challenging to navigate.
Extreme weather conditions and natural disasters: At all stages of domestic and international shipping, extreme weather conditions can create disruptions, leading to shipping delays. In more severe situations, natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, hurricanes, typhoons, and tsunamis could cause several-day delays.
Holidays: It could be a national or international holiday. Many suppliers and carriers observe closures during national and international holidays and, as a result, won't pick up or ship orders on those days. These work-free days will further result in significant backlogs, further delaying shipping. Also, a rise in the volume of demand during holidays can easily cause shipping delays on a large scale as suppliers are under pressure to meet up with the rising demand and carrier’s capacity is maxed out in most cases so that shipping takes longer period than it should, and all these put together will underwhelm the supply chain.
Supply chain issues: Businesses may also face shipping delays because of disruptions in the supply chain. Global or economic issues may cause these disruptions but are mostly related to problems such as supply chain shortages, port congestion, shipping capacity restrictions, and vessel delays.
Tips on How to Mitigate Delays -
It is understandable that sometimes, these delays cannot be avoided or are beyond the control of the industry players. However, specific measures can be taken to minimize the delays and reduce the impacts on all the parties involved, especially the retailers who risk losing their customers and revenue.
It is very important to prepare ahead for shipping delays knowing that it would occur and as a result, plan, create contingency plans to reduce the impact when it happens. With this comes changing your shipping strategy or having a tested backup shipping plan to use when the regular one fails. Flexibility and adaptability are key.
Regularly tracking your shipment status with carrier and providing the customers visibility to track and spot progress by themselves will reassure them that their shipment is on the way. Even if it's delayed, it is not lost and will get to them very soon, and that, to some extent, will help manage the situation and placate them. Shipment tracking can explain the cause of the delay, and with this, the customer will understand that it is not the retailer's fault.
Maintaining open communication channels with clients and being honest with them even when their goods are delayed will help build trust in the business. Most consumers want to know the actual time to expect their goods and when the goods do not arrive at that time, being honest with them about the cause of the delay will help to build the image of the business and most customers will understand when they are carried along and not kept in the dark.
Shipping delays cannot be avoided due to issues beyond the control of industry players, but they can be minimized. Honest customer service, preparation, anticipation and a flexible strategy are just some ways to mitigate such unforeseen disruptions.
At SARA PROCUREMENT SERVICES LIMITED, the leading procurement and freight management services firm in Nigeria, we are well aware of the damage delays could cause to a business and as such continuously forecast, anticipate and ensure we have visibility across our entire supply chain to ensure we have little to no disruptive impact.
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