How does weather affect the supply chain?

Climate change’s warmer temperatures and more frequent and severe extreme weather events, as well as the decreased availability of natural resources, will increase pressure on transportation companies to adapt to changing regulations and customer concerns, along with threats to assets and infrastructure.

The sources of this pressure are variable; ranging from those suffering immediate threats from climate change to those pushing for proactive management of assets and key components of global supply chains. Within these supply chains, the transportation sector plays a critical role in enabling and guiding climate change adaptation strategies worldwide. Both in terms of assets (such as ocean freighters and railcars) and locations (such as airports and seaports), the transportation sector is highly vulnerable to the physical impacts of climate change across its supply chain. Its major vulnerabilities include rising sea levels, changes in temperature, and extreme weather events, all of which can affect destinations and operations, and it all presents a different challenge for each type of transportation.

  • Road. Snow, fog, strong winds, etc. all can affect the state of the road and make driving harder. Securing cargo is vital (stowage), as it is important to regard each cargo by its specific needs.
  • Air. One of the most advanced modes of transportation these days, but also one that presents challenges for transportation, as it is based on forecast studies and requires very precise calculations dependent on it.
  • Sea. The most common means of transportation, for which there are many models for each type of good to be protected/secured/stored well given the dangers at sea. Although conditions at sea may be tough, there is enough knowledge to ensure it is all well taken care of.
  • People. The management of people plays a very important role in handling these adverse weather conditions. The proper training of staff on matters of prevention and security at the workplace is essential for any logistics operation; this will ensure the safety of the operations and the correct handling of the cargo.

Supply chain disruptions due to extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and changes in temperature can harm a supplier’s assets, leading to service delays or temporary shutdowns. This can result in loss of business, contracts, and customers.

The locations, equipment, and infrastructure that the transportation sector is reliant upon require adaptive investments to not only safeguard against climate change but also to improve upon existing networks. Since transportation infrastructure is used over a span of 10 years or more, strategic investments are critical to make transportation systems secure and climate-resilient.

In response to these risks and opportunities, companies are pursuing a range of adaptive practices to stay ahead of current and expected disruptions. In some cases, these practices are intended to protect the value of existing assets and systems. In others, practices are aimed more at creating value through innovation and meeting new needs that stem from climate change effects.

Transportation companies are well positioned to adapt and create climate strategies and solutions that will ripple throughout a diverse set of supply chains.