After several years of canceled weddings – due to COVID-19 quarantine regulations and changing rules around congregating in large groups – literally millions of couples assumed this year’s “big days” could finally go as planned. But the supply chain reared its ugly head, and now it’s come for the flowers!
Due to pandemic-related supply chain challenges, labor shortages and poor weather conditions in major growing areas, a global shortage of fresh flowers is disrupting nuptials everywhere. While couples in the US wring their hands with worry, fresh bouquets are dying inside trucks at our borders while we try to sort this out.
The wedding industry has certainly started booming again – in fact, 2.5 million weddings are expected to occur in the U.S. in 2022, up approximately 30% from last year and the most in nearly four decades. But this sudden surge of knot tying will exacerbate vendor issues. It’s also important to note that this pent-up demand for weddings, combined with supply shortages, will lead to higher prices. In 2021, the average wedding cost roughly $28,000. This year, wedding planners are expecting that cost to soar even higher as companies raise prices due to higher fuel surcharges and labor shortages.
As celebrations for couples who’ve been engaged anywhere from three days to three years collide with supply chain backlogs, labor shortages and inflation pressures, businesses that service wedding vendors – such as transportation companies delivering flowers – are left in a very difficult situation. Not only are they continually unable to meet customer expectations due to issues beyond their immediate control, but they’re letting their clients down at a much higher price tag.
The good news, however, is that there are strategies to implement to identify alternative supply and distribution sources, including diversifying the ports to which they ship. For example, due to the fact East Coast products and services are consumed within a shorter radius, East Coast ports have benefited from West Coast disruptions; many companies have decided to ship to Eastern and Southern ports to reduce risk and ensure items that need to arrive in a timely fashion, do so.
Technology is another important enabler during these days of disruption. The transportation and distribution sectors have long adapted to market upheaval by investing in tech, ranging from automated guided vehicles to enterprise resource planning systems. Now is the time to double down and tap into the power of data. Many of these firms are lagging behind the broader business world in leveraging the big data they’re already gathering.
For example, some transport industry leaders are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to make more efficient use of shipping containers. Today’s AI/ML tech can accurately predict how long any given container will sit at a terminal. With this information, logistics firms can stack and store containers so that the first ones to be picked up can be accessed quickly and easily.
In another example, most companies are already using telematics to monitor their trucks and truck sub-systems for fuel efficiency, performance, stress and current and future repair needs. Warehouses and container yards, similarly, create and gather large amounts of data about customers, inventory and SKUs, including contents and movement.
Externally, this data can continually feed information to parts and maintenance suppliers, so they can more efficiently service the trucks or containers. This increases vehicle uptime and reduces shipping delays for, yes, even flowers. Data can also be used to anticipate just-in-time changes such as fuel prices, route delays and weather issues. This can enable individuals moving the loads to avoid slowdowns and make more timely deliveries while increasing profitability for the company.
Applying these types of insights in the right ways can improve efficiency up and down the supply chain – making just-in-time supply systems less risky, automating many manual functions and ultimately optimizing the customer experience for wedding vendors and everyone else. While it may not address all the issues at hand, ensuring your vehicles and containers are operational and efficient is the most essential first step.
Companies seeking to build out their logistics data management capabilities should define a long-term strategy of how they’ll aggregate proprietary data assets, create new offerings and participate in data ecosystems. A good first move is to reach out to existing business relationships and build those channels, providing data to suppliers and vendors.
Next, prioritize analysis tracking of routes, validating driver idle time, determining optimal routes based on history, tracking real-time traffic data and appropriating trigger points based on the arrival of a shipping container at the port.
Lastly, structure how you’ll capture and package the useful data. It must be formatted and standardized to be easily shared on platforms that enable near real-time data exchanges. Many transport companies today are choosing to lean on business partners, consultants and technology platforms to structure this data in a way that makes sense for your business.
While supply chain issues are impacting every part of everyone’s lives, it’s a shame couples hoping to celebrate their partnerships are the ones that keep getting let down. Don’t allow the fact your business isn’t doing all it can to be efficient to ruin another couple’s wedding day.