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Perfecting Your Game Plan

‘What if’ scenarios are vital to the success of produce supply chains
Supply Chain Solutions

It’s October and football season is well underway. Offseason efforts to develop offensive and defensive schemes, playbooks, and game plans are in full execution mode. Winning depends on in-game adjustments, which can include the coaching staff making halftime corrections, the quarterback calling a timely audible to avoid a blitz, and the defense reacting quickly to a pass or run play.

Such agility develops only when the team practices probable game situations. This ‘what if’ planning will support necessary adjustments to the offense, defense, and special teams for a variety of game conditions. As a result, the well-prepared team will not be thrown off by an opponent’s trick plays, an injury to a key player, or poor field conditions.

Produce professionals face similar circumstances. While long-range supply chain strategies set the stage for success, problems with weather conditions, product quality, and equipment availability force fruit and vegetable suppliers to deviate from their original game plans. Success depends upon a company’s ability to quickly respond with logical and effective supply chain modifications.

Like winning football teams, leading produce companies use scenario planning and modeling to prepare for ‘in-season’ adjustments across multiple platforms. Supply, demand, and transportation plans must be adapted to changing market conditions.

Effective execution of these revised plans is the difference between financial wins and losses.

Adapting to Supply Challenges
Most industries can readily depend on a stable flow of quality product from suppliers. Short of a catastrophic event like a factory fire, a labor strike, or a product design failure, the supply is dependable.

If it were only so simple in fresh produce! In a perfect world, strategic longer-range supply planning is accurate and suppliers deliver according to plan. However, multiple factors—including climate, growing conditions, shifts in sourcing locations, and labor availability—create variability in supply quantity and quality. Produce professionals must constantly monitor the situation and make necessary sourcing adjustments to secure adequate inventories.

“Among the subtle market shifts and supply chain issues, weather is the biggest factor,” comments Glenn Sheader, in sales and buying for Consumer Fresh Produce Company, Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA. “If the weather impacts us in a way that leaves [customers] short on items, [they] start looking at other sources and places to pick them up.”

The ability to make quick sourcing shifts is facilitated by strong engagement with multiple suppliers. “Having visibility of sources and a list of trusted vendors helps us,” adds Greg Cessna, CEO of Consumer Fresh. “It takes time to build personal relationships with people around the country who understand what’s going on. You can’t rely on just one or two vendors; you need several in your arsenal for these situations.”