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  • Writer's pictureOfer Zeevy

Consumer goods delivery bottlenecks: could online solutions apply to save the ships stuck at sea?

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

As the holiday season approaches, beginning with Thanksgiving, consumer goods suppliers are scratching their heads trying to deal with the continuing problem of physical delivery bottlenecks. The supply chain crisis has already caused major delays in the transfer of goods via sea, but the increasing amounts of goods purchased with relation to the holiday season is expected to make things even worse. Can a possible solution to the supply chain bottlenecks problem come from, surprisingly, the digital world?

Consider this: I recently ordered a 700-page book online. I thought it would be a good idea to pay a little extra and receive the hard-cover version for a better and stronger holding of the pages. However, I had no choice but to cancel the order and make a new one, purchasing the cheaper paperback edition. Me changing the order was due to what the supplier had informed me:

Multiple bottlenecks.

Due to Corvid and its handling in China and in California, docks at both ends have slowed down considerably and in some cases have stopped completely. The added precautions, and shortages of dockworkers, has caused considerable delays in getting the ships loaded in China and in getting them unloaded in the US. Meanwhile, ships in the Pacific are accumulating, awaiting their turn to dock.

As it turned out, the hard-cover version was printed in China, and the supplier could not have even given me a due date for shipment. The soft, paperback cover was being printed in the US, so there was no problem sending it via air. And so for me, a paperback version was what I got.

Kuehne+Nagel, one of the world's largest freight forwarders recently explained why the current container shortage happens. Other experts cried for either a change in consumer spending habits or massive changes and investments in infrastructure and the workforce in response to the supply chain bottlenecks at sea.

As a result of the supply chain problems, consumer goods prices have increased. First, at the onset of Covid-19, prices took a huge downturn due to the slowdown of the world economy and the large global workers' layoffs. However, with the quick recent rebound in demand, caused by the huge federal aid and the effective C-19 vaccines, suppliers of goods have struggled to meet the sharp increases in demand. Labor shortages are among the explanations given for the situation, as in the report on what you need to know about the supply chain bottlenecks. One other troubling implication of the bottleneck problem is the fear of rising inflation, as some experts warn. They even claim that supply chain bottlenecks are riskier than covid.

As the physical routes of consumer goods continue to witness problems and bottlenecks, it is interesting to compare the situation to the similar supply chain of the digital world. Are there any lessons for digital information technology to figure out? Also, can the AI world contribute to the physical supply chain pipeline with suggestions that would contribute and offer possible solutions to the bottleneck problems?

The answers to these questions are mixed.

Every AI data-driven company makes sure to have a strong QA department, both in the R&D phase and surely in the supply-to-the-market stage. Bugs and system defects are being taken care of constantly in order for platforms to serve customers with no interruptions. Several of the digital services, such as in the gaming or insurtech industries, have already employed safety-net solutions to their QA, such as Affogata’s customer intelligence platform. Once customers comment and converse in whatever platform from the open web, their data is collected and analyzed by Affogata’s AI. Complaints are reported within seconds to the client, enabling him to resolve fairly quickly whatever bottlenecks in its system, sometimes system failures its own QA failed to recognize and resolve.

Unfortunately, such solutions do not apply to the current sea supply chain problems. No issue can take care of itself with a push of a button or a reported customer's complaint. The physical supply chain will improve through recruitment and onboarding of more workers and with better management and planning of the consumer goods delivery boards.

But all is not lost. There is, however, a digital solution retailer can consider. While consumer goods’ suppliers deal with the crisis’ physical aspects, they can gather customers’ feedback through the Affogata platform. They can react to their customers' comments and complaints in our all-in-one-place AI service while also collecting and analyzing their feedback and sentiments. Since a mostly negative situation is expected, it is still better to be aware of just how serious it is and respond to it as best as possible. Active real-time responses from any retailer at a time of crisis is better than not answering at all. Should a peak in negative conversations turn into a public relations crisis, the retailer can take specific actions to try and minimize whatever online damage it may have to tackle or even prevent it.

It will take some time for the consumer goods industry's physical supply chain to recover. But lessons will be learned and pipelines would improve. One can only hope that the 2022 holiday season will go smoother.

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