More Transportation Issues?” asked this magazine earlier in the month, after it was announced that Yellow, one of the nation’s larger freight carriers, was ceasing its operations following bankruptcy.

While this shutdown may not be expected to create a supply chain crisis on its own, it does raise eyebrows in the wake of the one we just experienced. Things have stabilized considerably since the worst of the pandemic-related problems, but the cost of freight remains high, and no one in the fenestration industry wants to deal with more unexpected challenges when it comes to receiving inventory and shipping finished products.

This got me thinking: No matter the external factors that may be impacting your business as a door and window manufacturer, you still control your own destiny—it just takes implementing the right internal processes. And that brings me to today’s tip:

Bolster your shipping and inventory procedures before the next challenge.

Times of relative calm are good opportunities to evaluate your processes and shift them if necessary. Otherwise, you’ll be scrambling by the time external variables may have already made an impact on your operations.

For example, when it comes to raw materials and components inventory, organization is critical. A well-organized manufacturer should be able to tell you exactly what materials they have on hand at any given time. If you haven’t yet invested in a modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, it’s worth your strong consideration—manufacturers of any size stand to benefit from such a system that can help you better track your raw materials, production capacity and more. When everything is properly accounted for and inventoried, you’ll have a much easier time retrieving the parts you need when and where you need them for more efficient production.

Additionally, forging a collaborative relationship with your suppliers can help in any situation. Maintain clear and open lines of communication. A good supplier should help anticipate your needs and act responsively.

The same is true for the opposite end of your production line, as you ready your completed units to ship. Barcoding is another strong practice; when all of your completed units are labeled with a unique barcode, you’ll have a greater handle on where every unit is and where it needs to go. A barcode can tell you which truck each unit needs to be loaded onto, which route it’s being shipped on and when it’s being delivered on that route. The more specificity here, the better. Organizing units on your trucks in precise order also eliminates touchpoints and potential for damage, along with optimized routing efficiency for the delivering fleet.

And like with your suppliers, maintaining clear and open lines of communications with your customers is important. Setting proper expectations is one of the most effective ways to maintain customer satisfaction, in both good times and more challenging ones.
So, don’t wait for unfavorable external factors to force you to make improvements to your tracking and production processes. By taking stock of your operations today, you’ll be better prepared for adverse conditions tomorrow.

John Ryba is Technical Services Manager for Quanex.

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