Hurricane Preparedness: Supply Chain Priorities

Aug. 31, 2006
Clearly and appropriately," says CEO Jane Hoffer for Prescient (, West Chester, Pa.), a provider of supply software for retailers and

Clearly and appropriately," says CEO Jane Hoffer for Prescient (, West Chester, Pa.), a provider of supply software for retailers and suppliers, "the top priority of retailers and suppliers in the path of a hurricane will be the health and safety of their respective employees."

However, the business of supply chain management is as much a public service as it is commerce during times of natural disaster.

"Retailers and suppliers who first serve the public by meeting the challenges of supply chain disaster preparedness will enjoy year-round customer loyalty and brand equity," added Hoffer.

Some more recommendations for hurricane-belt retailers and suppliers:

  • Incorporate supply chain flexibility and replenishment alternatives in disaster/crisis planning
  • Use point-of-sale data to analyze which products will be most affected in an emergency, and plan for replenishment of those products, including route optimization.
  • Use point-of-sale data to reduce those pipelines for products for which demand is likely to fall.
  • Audit technology infrastructure for disaster preparedness, including data vulnerability. Should servers be relocated? Create back-up and alternative IT and data warehouses.

Hoffer also recommends that grocers emphasize "Beeline Products," items that consumers rush to replenish the moment they run out. By focusing on maintaining supplies of Beeline Products, grocers and their suppliers can secure items consumers believe are most essential to everyday life. The top ten Beeline Products are, in order of importance: milk, bread, toilet paper, medicine, toothpaste, eggs, coffee, meat, fruit and cigarettes.

One such supplier is Prescient client Reily Foods (, makers of Luzianne brand foods including Luzianne and CDM Coffee. Coffee. Reily is the exclusive private label coffee supplier to several major grocery retailers.

Reily survived and thrived after Hurricane Katrina, despite having manufacturing facilities in New Orleans that were hard hit by the 2005 storms. Reily took care of its employees first and foremost. Post-Katrina, it formed a variety of collaborative relationships, even initiating temporary partnerships with competitors to assure a full supply chain. This year, Reily is moving inventories during hurricane season to assure product availability in the event of a storm.

"Disaster recovery is not just an IT issue. It's about keeping your customers supplied and your brands on the shelf," says John Smith, director of information technology at Reily. "One key lesson is to plan for the human factors in the event of a disaster."