Supply Chain Challenges Heat Up as Summers Get Hotter

Extreme weather has been a growing concern for supply chain managers for some time now. Hurricanes, blizzards, landslides, wildfires, and floods can all create major supply chain challenges that drive costs up while slowing the movement of goods down to a crawl. As climate change continues to wreak havoc around the world, a new challenge may be poised to create serious disruptions: heatwaves.

In the U.S., the Pacific Northwest is currently being hit by deadly, record-breaking temperatures. And this is far from the only region where the summers seem to be getting hotter and hotter.

While a hot day may not seem like as big an obstacle as a tornado ripping through a town or a flood leaving whole highways inaccessible, rising temperatures should be on every supply chain manager’s radar. Here’s why.

Extreme heat can cause damage to shipments

Cold chain shippers are well aware of the impact high temperatures can have on shipments. After all, even marginal shifts in temperature during transit may result in biologic medicines becoming useless or food products needing to be thrown out. As a result, these shippers rely on refrigerated trucks and strict temperature controls to not only keep their products cool but also monitor temperature throughout the shipping lifecycle. But these kinds of measures aren’t necessary outside of the cold chain—right?

That may change as rising temperatures create new supply chain challenges for shippers across countless sectors. Products that are even mildly heat-sensitive may arrive damaged, deteriorated, or melted if they’ve been baking in a hot truck throughout their journey. This could include many plastics, electronic parts, alcohol-based goods (like hand sanitizer), and beauty products—especially those containing preservatives.

While shippers expect carriers to take reasonable steps to protect their shipments, carriers will likely claim force majeure if a heatwave results in damaged goods. After all, they can’t control the weather, and it’s up to shippers to proactively request temperature-controlled trucks if they think they need them. Of course, this will come with additional costs—but that may be preferable to throwing out a ruined shipment and needing to send a replacement to the customer.

Heatwaves increase the risk of other disasters

Heatwaves are a problem on their own. But they also increase the risk of other extreme weather conditions, creating even more complex supply chain challenges.

Unsurprisingly, when high temperatures meet dry conditions, the risk of wildfires goes up—and if a fire starts, many roads may quickly become dangerous or completely inaccessible. Heatwaves also exacerbate droughts, which can sometimes result in waterways temporarily shutting down, leaving ships transporting goods stranded and creating delays.

Uncharacteristically hot summers often do damage to infrastructure, too. The current heatwave in the Pacific Northwest has caused sections of pavement on the interstate to buckle as the concrete expands, resulting in lanes needing to be closed for repairs. Some railways have also been affected, with rails expanding and overhead power supply lines losing tension.

Solve your burning supply chain challenges

At CTSI-Global, we’ve been around for more than 60 years, and we’ve helped our clients navigate countless natural disasters and extreme weather events in that time. Whether you need to find carriers that can handle temperature-sensitive shipments at the right price or want more visibility into potential problems on the road ahead, we have the technology and expertise to help you tackle your red-hot supply chain challenges.

Keep a cool head. Contact us today.

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