Reasons for delay

Delays can occur for a number of reasons:

  • Transport breakdown
  • Bad weather
  • Transport company has a poor track record of delivering on time
  • Wrong goods delivered
  • Flight, vessel or rail transport delayed/cancelled
  • Awaiting customs clearance
  • Products damaged in transit
  • Incorrect, delayed or lost documentation

There are a number of ways to avoid or minimise the impact of a delayed shipment on your business:

Minimum stocks

Avoid relying on shipments to fulfill order requirements. You can prepare for the inevitable late delivery by ensuring that as a business you hold minimum stocks or buffer stocks at all times to meet customer demands. Your minimum stocks should be set at a level which is sustainable to your business (i.e. does not tie up capital and which is based on forecasted demands).

Reputable transport company

It is important that your transport company is a reputable one. Check the company's history and track record and also find out if they belong to a recognised transport association. If the deal sounds too good to be true then it probably is. As a business you cannot afford to incur unnecessary costs. Ensure that you will be entitled to compensation if your shipment is late/cancelled, and always read the small print. Make an effort to build a good working relationship.

Multiple suppliers

Having at least one alternative source of supply will help your business to cope with a stock-out emergency. Relying on only one supplier can be risky.

Documentation

Do not rely only on your forwarder for documentation. Ensure someone in your organisation is aware of the requirements and time constraints of documentation. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for documentation.

Realistic lead times

If exporting, make sure that you don't promise unrealistic delivery dates. Take into account the door-to-door supply chain and leave yourself a little room to move in case one of the links breaks down. Consider manufacturing, packaging, labelling and document presentation.

Who to contact

If your goods are late, contact the supplier and transport company in the first instance for an explanation and also for a revised delivery date. Notify the receiving warehouse advising them of the delayed shipment as well as the revised delivery date and time. Finally contact your customers and explain the reason for the delay – be honest and advise when they will receive their goods.