What is the biggest crisis UK supply chains are facing this year? OK, there are a few obvious ones. But let’s put aside Brexit (as this has been covered) and Christmas (which at least happens on the same date every year).
The crisis I am thinking of is the UK August Bank holiday weekend …. and …. is it going to be sunny?!?
One of the biggest party weekends of the summer, as the kids are coming to the end of school holidays, will happen around the Monday holiday, which is August 26 this year. The British tend to go to town with cookouts and summer drinks … but only when the sun comes out – and the British weather is not traditionally reliable.
According to 2016’s figures, when there was above-average sunshine in the UK, 115.3 million cookouts occurred during the year. This equals every citizen having two charcoal-grilled meals; so clearly we like a barbecue. Whether is it red meat, chicken, fish, or vegan options, the supply chain crisis from massive demand on one weekend of the year, which is also dependant on the weather, will always be tricky.
Let me explain why this is so hard to get right – and therefore profitable – and why the supply chain is the most critical part of the business susceptible to the crisis.
The core of any good cookout is red meat; although veganism is on the rise, steaks and burgers are still very popular. These products have a short shelf-life. Even with aged steak, UK Food Standards only allow them to be kept on the shelves for seven days. With the touch-and-go British weather, many people won’t confirm their party until the day before. This puts heavy pressure on meat producers, logistics providers, and retailers.
The supply chain for meat has a long lead time (since cows take 18 months to mature) and (as it should be) is very heavily regulated. Production to steak and burgers is fast – only around 48 hours after slaughter, then the meat is delivered to supermarket distribution centers seven days a week and generally sent out the same day to smaller supermarkets. Once on the shelf, it can only stay seven days. So, working backward from our cookout, if you are inviting friends for a party on a Monday bank holiday, your burger has been in production for 18 months and a week – since February 2018!
The saving grace of supply chain planners is having a digital supply chain that knows how to sense demand and forecast – not just based on last year – but on all the trends in the market, as well as customer feedback and sentiment. Technology providers can help deliver that flexible planning and provide a good understanding of a connected, intelligent digital supply chain – including delivery on that hopefully sunny Monday morning.