Bad weather lessons

Nothing brings home procurement's value like good ol' fashioned lousy weather

December 9, 2014
by Michael Power

From the December 2014 print edition

I’m not sure what the weather is like as you read this, but at the time of writing Toronto has seen its nightime temperatures dip to lows of -10C or so. It took me 1.5 hours to drive home during some of that snowfall the other day, a trip that usually takes about 30 minutes. Buffalo, NY is buried under an epic and, tragically, deadly pile of snow. My brother and his family live in Yellowknife, so I check the weather there once in a while. I’m usually able to comfort myself that the lows don’t reach -27C at night, as it did in that city a few days ago.

I recall last winter, during the ice storm Toronto experienced, that it actually became a bit tough in my neighbourhood to go out and buy anything. Going grocery shopping was a challenge, and I remember some of the thoughts that ran through my head. What if the stores ran out of food? What if trucks couldn’t get to the stores? What if the power gets cut and all the food spoils?

Bad weather can drive up freight costs, mess with commodity markets and disrupt business continuity. It can make business travel difficult or impossible and force companies into crisis mode if their travellers are stranded someplace during a natural disaster of some sort. As an example, the eruption of Iceland’s Mount Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 springs to mind.

Nothing brings home the value of what procurement practitioners do—and of a properly managed supply chain—like the prospect of not getting what you want or need, at a price that’s reasonable, due to unforeseen circumstances or force majeure. So for this Christmas, I’d wish that the weather is not too harsh. If I’m to be grateful for anything, it’s that supply chain and procurement work as well for us as they do.