6 Proactive Ways Supply Chain Managers Can Start Preparing for Winter Weather
Winter typically brings brutal weather conditions across the United States — especially in the North. However, snowstorms can still reach the Sun Belt states. Regardless of location, supply chain managers must prepare for snow, sleet, ice and other conditions.
Preparation is crucial for fortifying businesses and staying resilient throughout the season. Supply chain managers should employ these six proactive measures to brace for winter.
1. Checking Regional Weather
Weather can change at a moment’s notice, making it hard to predict. Though, meteorologists can gauge the upcoming winter by looking at data from previous seasons. These scientists also use sea surface temperatures and climate patterns as indicators for December, January and February.
For instance, North America has seen three La Niña years in a row — producing colder and wetter winters on the West Coast. However, experts are 95% certain this upcoming winter will see El Niño, bringing a drier and warmer winter to the American West.
Supply chain managers should look at their regional weather outlook to predict what’s coming. These professionals should consult local meteorologists and climate experts for their opinion and use it to determine the necessary preparations.
2. Establishing Emergency Plans
Logistics professionals should prepare for winter regardless of conditions by establishing emergency plans. The weather can change rapidly and defy expectations from meteorologists, giving businesses in the community little time to prepare for treacherous conditions. Developing emergency plans ensures supply chain managers are ready for the winter weather.
First, managers should assess risk and find the facility’s vulnerabilities. Power outages and worker and product safety are two of the most significant concerns because either situation can turn fatal if an organization isn’t ready. Then, supply chain managers should review their communication protocols to ensure everybody is on the same page when torrential winter weather arrives.
Sometimes, winter conditions will be devastating enough to force evacuation. Supply chain managers should develop contingency plans to protect workers and goods and reduce downtime. These strategies may include moving products to a temporary storage facility or finding alternative means of transportation. Managers should draw these plans now to prepare for the cold days of the future.
3. Preparing Facilities
Winter can cause headaches for business owners if their facilities aren’t ready for the frigid conditions. Supply chain disruptions have tightened budgets, so the last thing managers need are shipping delays or damaged equipment. Minor issues like icy walkways can become significant if employees or clients slip and fall. These incidents can bring unwanted costs from workers’ compensation and legal fees.
Prepping the building should be high on the priority list for supply chain managers. They should start with inspecting exposed pipes or cracks in the windows and doors. Using caulk and weatherstripping prevents outside air from penetrating the facility and protects employees and inventory from cold conditions.
Building owners should inspect their HVAC units to ensure they’re ready for the winter. These systems protect the building from cold weather, so examining the entire unit from top to bottom is essential. Supply chain managers can hire a professional to inspect the HVAC or audit the machine. HVAC reviews typically include checking the following parts:
- Air filter: The HVAC’s air filter should be free of dirt and debris to ensure airflow and efficiency throughout the winter.
- Coils: Contaminants can also harm the coils, so inspectors should ensure the condenser and evaporator coils are in working order.
- Freon: Many HVAC units produced before 2020 contain freon, so building owners should ensure their systems have adequate refrigerant levels.
4. Inspecting Fleets
Logistics professionals rely on their fleets to transport millions of dollars worth of cargo, so protecting them all year is crucial. Cold weather significantly affects all kinds of vehicles, emphasizing the need for routine maintenance. Supply chain managers should be proactive by inspecting their cars, vans and trucks before the season’s first snow. Routine inspections include:
- Tires: The first place winter hits fleets is the tires. Some regions face dramatic temperature drops, causing tires to lose significant air pressure. Supply chain managers should swap for winter tires before cold weather and regularly inspect each tire’s psi. Every drop in psi leads to 0.2% worse fuel economy, costing money unnecessarily for businesses.
- Fluids: Another critical winter preparation for fleets is caring for the fluids. The engine will run better with low-viscosity oil to help the fluids flow. Supply chain managers can start with 5W-30 oil because of its flexibility year-round. If the cold weather worsens, fleet managers should consider 0W-20 or 0W-30 to ensure their vehicles are in good shape.
- Battery: Cold weather also strains batteries because they have to work harder in frigid temperatures. Battery maintenance is even more critical if logistics professionals own electric vehicles (EVs). Fleet managers should emphasize keeping vehicles charged and using block heaters to ensure the battery doesn’t drain quickly. EVs shouldn’t charge to 100% or rest at 0%, so finding a happy medium is vital.
5. Salting the Ground
Prepping vehicles for the season is an excellent start, and supply chain managers can go the extra mile by strengthening the roads and parking lots. Logistics professionals can’t stop the snow but can prevent the road from icing by using salt. Sodium chloride lowers water’s freezing point and makes vehicles safer. Below-freezing temperatures are less of an issue, depending on how much salt is in the solution.
Supply chain managers can speed up the salting process by using salt spreaders on their property. Acquiring a salt spreader now helps businesses prepare to de-ice the roads and keep their fleet moving. These machines are more efficient and accurate than humans spreading salt, so it’s worth considering for the season.
Logistics professionals should know salt has its limitations. The Minnesota Department of Transportation says salt won’t melt snow fast enough when temperatures dip below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, making the salt spreader less cost-effective. Alternatively, businesses can use sand to make surfaces less slippery.
6. Ensuring a Full Staff
The end of the year brings increased demand for logistics companies due to the winter holidays. FedEx, UPS and Amazon often see their peak between November and January before cooling down closer to the spring. The increased demand emphasizes how businesses must be ready, and supply chain managers can prepare by ensuring they have a full staff.
Many logistics companies require seasonal employees to fill the demand amidst labor shortages. This trend stretches across several industries, impacting logistics, manufacturing, retail and more.
Experts predict the shortage will continue for the remainder of the decade, so hiring managers should start early when looking for temporary workers. Supply chain managers should give themselves and their seasonal employees at least three months to acclimate and adequately prepare for the demand.
Preparing for Winter
Winter is challenging for logistics professionals due to increased demand and the weather. Frigid conditions can compromise vehicles and facilities and cause critical downtime. Supply chain managers should use these six proactive ways to prepare for winter.