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3 Characteristics to Help Manage Fulfillment Disruption

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Fulfillment disruption is challenging at the best of times, but pandemic restrictions in 2020 have upended every section of the supply chain.

As consumer purchasing moved online during periods of quarantine, social distancing, and a lingering hesitance to get out into the physical world, existing warehousing and fulfillment strategies went out the window. One long and much-changed summer later, COVID-19 is offering lessons in crisis readiness and business continuity planning to retailers and their fulfillment partners alike.

Our CSO Thom Campbell recently spoke to Sourcing Journal on this subject. He offered the following three traits that proved extremely valuable to companies attempting to navigate the uncertain waters of the pandemic:

  1. Creativity
  2. Redundancy
  3. Adaptability
Manage fulfillment disruption in supply chain

You can read the full article by Sarah Jones at Sourcing Journal by registering here. It covers multiple perspectives from around the fulfillment sector and is well worth your time.

To provide a short overview, the next section offers some key excerpts from Thom and other respondents.

Handling Fulfillment Disruption: Key Characteristics

"Times like this show how incredibly critical creativity is," says Campbell, who agrees that his sector isn't typically seen as a bastion of creative inspiration. Nonetheless, when your business leans heavily on engineers and technologists, out-of-the-box thinking is actually a quality you have in abundant supply.

Looking back at March, when business-as-usual was flipped on its head and uncertainty became the only constant, fulfillment services suddenly had to channel all of that creativity just to keep their doors open and products moving. In Capacity's case, that meant looking at the resources available on both coasts, analyzing the data around case rates, declining retail shipments vs. surging eCommerce activity, and coming up with a continuity plan that satisfied both health and commercial requirements.

With safety the primary concern, Capacity was able to lean on its campus-based approach to fulfillment to create independent teams and processing spaces that could continue working, even if another building had to shut down due to a positive test result. Given the circumstances, fulfillment disruption was inevitable and unavoidable, but this creative solution allowed Capacity to keep working for our clients and be on a stronger footing as caseloads around the states in which we operate receded.

Capacity employee with PPE and Kai's hand sanitizer to New York

This success also touches on the quality of adaptability, which has been consistently identified by business leaders as a trait that has helped them through the pandemic.

In the article, founder of fulfillment tech platform Flowspace Ben Eachus highlights the value of third-party partnerships and tapping into these deeper relationships to help each other through. Noting that many Amazon retailers suddenly found themselves high and dry when their primary fulfillment channel chose to ship only essentials at the height of the pandemic, Eachus sees the presence of third-party partners as a way to quickly pivot to another channel. With the appropriate technology partners in place, he also sees a greater ability to adapt in this way, saying that "any company that has significantly invested in their fulfillment capabilities, whether that’s internally or outsourced, will be in a stronger position than those who haven’t."

On a more pragmatic note, redundancy is the other quality highlighted as a key to successfully navigating fulfillment disruption. Implementing and testing backups is a task that can easily fall down the to-do list, but ensuring the company had multiple Internet connections, client communication channels, and additional physical facilities to fall back on, proved to be the crucial underpinnings that helped Capacity come through the most tumultuous periods of the pandemic.

We thank Sourcing Journal for sharing our experiences and hope that you can identify these characteristics in your own organization. If we can help you manage any fulfillment disruption that has been exposed by this challenging year, please don't hesitate to contact us today.