Getting Your Shipments to the Right Place at the Right Time

We’re certain all supply chain professionals will agree “unprecedented” is the defining word for 2020, and we’re barely at the half-way mark. Virtually overnight, COVID-19 transformed consumer purchasing patterns.  Demand for PPE and nondiscretionary goods skyrocketed, while purchases of discretionary items like apparel instantly diminished.  At the same time, retail stores deemed non-essential were forced to shutter, and consumers turned to digital shopping like never before.  One of our large retail customers saw their average eCommerce order volumes increase from 5,000 to 80,000/day in the space of a couple weeks.  This transformed, highly dynamic retail environment is creating winners and losers.  Retailers who will prevail can rapidly respond to shifting consumer demand, support omni-channel shopping, and redeploy their workforce and technology to master the ever-changing landscape.

Century appreciates the trust that our customers have placed in our people and our technology to help you manage through the pandemic.  We’d like to take this opportunity to share strategies we’ve jointly employed with our customers to mitigate the short-term impact of COVID-19.  Given the continuing volatility, we want to heighten awareness of technology and services that can help you surmount supply chain hurdles.

Supply Chain Stop & Restart

One of our leading mass retail customers took aggressive action to curtail the inbound flow of goods when most of their stores closed to comply with COVID-19 directives.   They instructed Century to hold all bookings at origin for a 9-day period.  We delayed a large number of POs (114K CBM).  This supply chain pause we enforced gave our customer time to reassess product mix and order quantities versus consumer demand.  Our customer relies heavily on reporting and EDI feeds generated from VMS® to monitor PO/SKU quantities on the water, booked quantities pending delivery at origin, quantities delivered, and quantities not yet booked by their suppliers.  At the conclusion of the 9-day pause, Century immediately restarted the supply chain and began expediting our customer’s high demand items to the geographies with peak sales.

Prioritization of High-demand Products

Many Century customers are revising their purchasing plans in favor of high demand items, whether that be PPE, essential household goods or “boredom busters”.  The number of EDI PO changes Century has processed during the past few months grew exponentially, and we have risen to the challenge by upgrading servers to handle the increased transaction volume.

Customers are working hand-in-hand with Century to identify and expedite their hot PO/items at origin and destination.   Through our Century Express division, we can offer air, sea and sea/air transportation options.  In North America, our Century Domestic team offers domestic final mile delivery for LTL and FTL (via truck or rail).  Multiple customers are taking advantage of Century Domestic’s East or West Coast transload services paired with team trucking to rapidly move inbound PPE into their DCs instead of relying on carrier IPI service.  We’re leveraging priority marking flags in VMS to help customer DCs segregate and rush-process hot items.

Another service that’s gaining steam for expediting products during COVID-19 is China-Europe rail.  Today’s China-Europe rail network connects 27 Chinese cities with 28 European cities spanning 11 countries.  Though more expensive than ocean shipping, rail shortens transit by as much as 14-28 days and is about 1/3 the cost of airfreight.  The Chongqing Municipality even has a plan to expand routes to cover Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul and other Asian cities.

Since early April, Century has worked with customers to prioritize shipment of 40,000+ cbms of hand sanitizer, masks, and gowns.

Origin Value Added Services

Origin storage, pick and pack and repackaging are all services emerging as potential wins for our customers.  Again, the chief goal is to segregate high demand products from less time-sensitive goods and ensure those priority orders are first to load out in today’s tightening ocean freight market.     We are also exploring repackaging services with multiple customers.  The idea is to make high demand goods more “retail-ready”, enabling either DC bypass or, at a minimum, quicker order fulfillment at the DC.

Contact Us

We thoroughly understand the importance of getting your cargo where you need it when you need it, and of course, at the right cost! Talk to your local Account Manager or Contact Us to learn how Century can engineer an optimized solution for your business needs now and in the future.

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