How Data Can Navigate What Could Be a Difficult Summer for Shipping

by | Jul 20, 2023 | Manufacturing & Supply Chain

Reading Time: 4 minutes

From the pandemic to extreme weather to human error – for example, a large container ship ending up blocking the Suez Canal – the past few years have seen no shortage of disruptions to the supply chain. Each situation has brought with it another reminder that an organization can never have enough data when it comes to navigating potential issues with the supply chain.

There have been a few issues more recently that have once again brought consumers’ attention to potential problems with getting their products on time. From the air to the ground, here’s a look at some of those possibilities, and how data can make sure you are best prepared to handle them.


Aircraft issues could affect more than just your summer travel plans. Air freight could be impacted in a number of ways this summer. More planes are flying with more fuel-efficient engines, which require more maintenance than previous engines, and some airlines are having trouble getting the parts they need and enough skilled labor to perform the maintenance.

On top of that, there are also potential worker strikes in Europe, adding complexity to an already busy summer travel season. With a high likelihood of flight delays all summer long, deliveries through the air could see significant delays at some point in the next couple of months as well.


Sometimes ground transportation can also be – pardon the pun – up in the air. UPS, which according to one study shipped almost a quarter of all parcels in the United States in 2022, is facing a potential work stoppage that could have major repercussions on shipping. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters says it will strike on August 1st, after its current contract expires, unless an agreement is reached before then.

Another of the largest freight trucking companies in the United States is facing bankruptcy. Some organizations have already taken steps to divert their shipping from Yellow, which has more than $1 billion in debt and might be forced to file for bankruptcy this summer.

While some shipping companies can benefit from the difficulties their competitors are facing, they often have limits on how much extra freight they can take on. So what does that mean for organizations that suddenly have to change their shipping plans?

Data can help

The disruptions are another reminder that it’s not enough to think about steps you can take in case there is another problem: an organization needs to act on those steps. If a company has all of its shipping through UPS, it is going to be in trouble if there is a strike. Companies that have taken the initiative to diversify their shipping can better weather the disruption.

So the first step is for organizations to digitally transform, if they haven’t already. Shipping disruptions don’t make it impossible to get your products where they need to be. They do make it more expensive, though, and that can have negative repercussions on a company for months afterwards, if not years.

Data can help you map your supply chain and figure out where there might be unnecessary steps in a shipping process. Maybe a shipping company that is suffering from a worker shortage is one you didn’t need in the first place, or maybe data analysis tells you before there is any problem that there is a more economic option than using that company. If it’s too late to take proactive steps, some business intelligence solutions can work on an alternative course of action in real time that can make sure you’re still working at the most efficient level around the disruption. If there’s a problem with air freight, maybe there are ground or water transportation possibilities. Inventory data can provide visibility into just how long your organization can deal with a ‘wait and see’ approach rather than taking immediate action.

There’s nothing wrong with having a rosy outlook about your business. When it comes to the supply chain, though, it’s important to mix in a dose of reality. The situations mentioned above just scratch the surface. There could be labor shortages at factories or docks that interfere with the smooth manufacture and delivery of products. There could be a storm that delays arrival, or some other natural disaster that creates an unforeseen issue. There are many things that could go wrong, and data can help your organization be as prepared as possible for the unpredictable.

John Sucich
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