Early this week Atlanta came to a complete halt. What can this event teach a person in supply chain and logistics? In truth, most supply chain / logistics people must be secretly smiling themselves because they have experienced minor versions of this themselves when demand spiked beyond all dreams and plans. There is a good description of what happening during a snow storm in Atlanta which can be found here: http://cnn.it/1fDT8ib
Melissa Fay Green’s article describes the moment everyone in Atlanta saw a snowflake about 1:30 PM Tuesday January 28, 2014, they all decided to jump in the cars at once to beat the storm going home. They did not succeed. This for just about 3 inches of snow. It is safe to assume that people in the Atlanta area had previously had experience when snow storms and knew the government infrastructure could not cope the problem. This is why they started home then.
Every once a while in a supply chain /logistics professionals career, an unexpected spike demand will occur. In the Atlanta case, millions of individual decisions led to the capacity of the roads to become a quagmire. In the professional’s case, there is a major advantage, the power to centralize the decision processes. This is the most important first step in dealing with a sharp pike in demand.
With the ability to plan, comes the ability to process review. What is your capacity to deliver now? Importantly what are the bottlenecks that limit that demand. Can they be changed to have additional capacity? Once that is understood, the second step then will occur as your organization prioritizes your customers and your process, which is the second step.
Communication with all stakeholders is the important third step. This is not easy as it sounds. Finding the way to reach stakeholders which includes the end customers is not always easy. In the Atlanta case, cell phone were missing or out of power, yet some communication was done with social media. Be prepared to be innovative and resourceful. A strong reaction to that communication has to be anticipated as some customer and production process will be adversely affected.
Lastly after it is over, a review of what was learned is very important. Undoubtedly in retrospect there will be process improvements, costs which could handled better, planning processes which could be more focused. I suspect in Atlanta the review will be very difficult, because anger, political aspirations, budget constraints, and a bias against government. Your organization will need to handle the review process in a constructive way, because negatives enter enterprise planning also.
In review, the four steps are: 1) Centralize the planning, 2) Prioritize your process and your end user customers, 3) Communicate with the stake holders, and 4) Review the process and events when it is over.