Planning ahead to avoid supply chain chaos

Disruption – it’s been a bit of a common theme for us all over the last 18 months, right?

Businesses across the UK are now experiencing a different kind of disruption though; the kind that hits in the middle of a perfect storm – in our case it’s an increased demand for products amid a lack of supply. Having weathered the worst of the pandemic (hopefully!), the supply chain is now the latest casualty of the pandemic with many businesses reporting stock issues of late.

Iceland and Tesco are among the big high street businesses reporting supply chain delays. And we’ve all read in the news recently about restaurant chains such as Nandos and KFC running out of chicken and McDonald’s unable to make milkshakes!

These delays are being partly blamed on problems with deliveries caused by the shortage of lorry drivers at ports post-Brexit.

For small businesses such as Concept, we are trying to predict the future (if only we had a crystal ball!) by planning ahead as much as possible to side-step some of these widespread supply chain issues.

For our business, the delays lie with a shortage of shipping containers and escalating shipping costs – we are finding these costs have quadrupled in recent months.

We are lucky that over the past 23 years we have grown our client base and we are proud to have solid relationships with all our new and existing customers.

The time of year is fast approaching our peak selling months as more customers begin to think about winter and investing in warmer branded clothing. We are seeing increased demand for bespoke clothing as people return to the workplace and take on new roles as businesses ramp up post lockdown.

While healthy weekly sales are all well and good, we need to have the supplies ready and waiting to fulfil bulk bespoke orders – we work hard to ensure our service is tailored to each individual client.

How do business owners take back some supply chain control?

I believe the key to making this a seamless process is two-fold – 1) We need to work together with customers to manage expectations and 2) We need to take control

The “Amazon Prime” culture of ‘next day delivery’ needs to be quashed as it just doesn’t apply to the custom-made manufacturing business.

We pride ourselves on quality workmanship and quality products. While it’s true we always have back up supplies of certain products, some of our most popular clothing lines (masks, hoodies and beanie hats) are not always available in bulk so we really need to be ahead of the game for large orders.

We have been bringing brands to life for the past two decades and we know that planning for the unpredictable is even more important during these tricky times.

Planning ahead is the difference between filling the gaps in the supply chain and getting those all-important orders out to customers.

Three key points from my perspective to make things run smoother in chaotic times:

  • Work with customers and set realistic expectations – try to be as transparent as possible, let them know how long the order process is likely to take
  • Reiterate the importance of planning ahead – let your customers know to contact you as soon as possible to place orders to ensure they receive their goods in a timely manner
  • Communicate – you can never communicate with your customers enough – before, during and after the order process

At the end of the day, we will continue doing what’s best for our customers.

At Concept, we are eternal optimists – we have a sense of hope that with a good plan behind us and strong communication tools, the business outlook for the year ahead can be a bright one.



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