4 Things We Learned this Hurricane Season About How Companies Use Tech to Help Communities
Hurricane season has rolled through and there’s just a few weeks left. This year’s season included two major storms and eight hurricanes total. So, what can we learn as businesses and bystanders in the aftermath?
Here are four ways companies prepare for impact to support their local communities in the eye of the storm:
- They keep eyes on the cone.
It’s not an exact science, but there is an undeniable art to storm preparation. When a tropical storm or hurricane is imminent, meteorologists use weather conditions and historical data to chart its course. The “cone of uncertainty” circles areas positioned for impact at 12-hour intervals and pinpoints the heart of the storm. Hurricanes are expected to stay the course inside the cone 60-70 percent of the time.
Retailers use the cone to determine store locations in areas most likely to be hit to prepare almost prescient inventory levels. Before the storm hits, businesses identify areas positioned for the most impact and nearby areas expecting less damage. They guide products to both, aiding inbound recovery efforts in the event of stores closing due to flooding or wind damage. Home improvement chains and grocers stock countless generators, tarps, water and gas cans all positioned at the front of stores where they’re accessible. Unnecessary product shipments are paused to move the must-haves to affected areas faster.
- They monitor the storm in real-time.
In the face of a storm, companies must act quickly. How fast? Faster than winds reaching over 155 miles per hour. Retailers use a control tower with technology for visibility into inventory on the move and across their store locations. A command center helps businesses prepare for the perfect storm and respond immediately as the hurricane rolls through. The control tower constantly updates with information from local stores, news sources, Red Cross and local contacts.
Command center managers maintain an impenetrable focus on the resources and capabilities needed at every moment before, during and after a hurricane. They are in constant communication with state and federal agencies to support communities, customers and subsequent inventory goals by any means possible.
To support coastal communities 24/7, the command center is constantly armed – enlisting support from merchandising, operations and supply chain teams. Companies set a clear path forward and pivot when the storm changes direction – moving inventory from areas outside of the storm as the weather moves, and automatically redirecting other shipments to restock those stores.
As Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies become more prominent, businesses are pivoting less. Experts predict technology will continue guiding storm preparation and disaster relief efforts with fully automated processes reacting in real-time as conditions change. Algorithms and data will help command center managers orchestrate responses with available options and their projected impacts. Technology will account for important factors, from weather and road conditions to where Red Cross relief efforts are located.
- They learn from the past.
We’re all learning the art of preparing for extreme weather and retailers are no exception. Every storm brings different results and details businesses can learn from and apply to future storm recovery efforts. More companies store and study information from climate events after the storm passes to see where their customers need additional support.
Following the hurricane, businesses evaluate the most in-demand products in communities weathering a storm. They also look at inventory levels and gaps in processes. If specific items were overstocked or understocked or weren’t fully evaluated at the start, that information helps the control tower to navigate similar weather events in the future to better prepare for the next one.
- They find ways to help communities.
These extreme weather events bring communities and supporting businesses together. Companies in or near impacted areas frequently assess their resources, ensuring they have the electricity, workforce and inventory to provide aid to storm victims whenever possible.
How did businesses give back this hurricane season?
Businesses from car manufacturers to food and beverage companies stepped up in support of Hurricane Florence victims.
Tesla opened all express-charging stations in affected areas to provide free charging to drivers there. The automaker is expanding battery capacity for impacted customers until mid-October.
Local breweries and national retailers including Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors provided fresh, sterilized drinking water to restaurants and other businesses.
World Central Kitchen, which provided meals after the devastation in Puerto Rico last year, pitched in with fresh food for storm victims. Denny’s contributed a mobile kitchen – serving pancake breakfasts in affected areas. A North Carolina Chick-fil-A also opened on a Sunday, donating sandwiches and nuggets to evacuees.
Having the right products at the right places and the right time is essential for any community to be prepared and recover once the storm clears. With 18 days of hurricane season left, businesses everywhere are watching and waiting.
Does your supply chain need a built-in crisis control center?
Looking for a tool to warn you of an impending supply chain disruption — and help you manage it? Learn more about JDA Luminate Control Tower.