November 22 2021  |  Amenities & Comfort

Guest column: Global supply chains – how can you triumph over adversity?

By Alison Wells, Co-Founder and Director, Plane Talking Products

It’s simply good business practice to work with trusted supply partners to help overcome a multitude of challenges.

As a leading supplier of onboard products, Plane Talking Products has taken its share of the pain during the last 18 months. With an order book that dried up overnight, high inventory levels, and managing a supply chain with work in progress right down to a firm stop. This was certainly one of the most challenging situations we’ve ever had to deal with during our 30 years in the airline supply business.

As companies like ours, and many others, start to emerge blinking into the light, we couldn’t be more wrong if we thought we could simply turn the clock back and return to ‘business as usual.'

The pandemic has turned our supply chains upside down.

For example, previously a container from China to Europe would have cost around US$2,000. We are now paying seven or eight times that. And that’s if the port or city of manufacture is not shut down due to a COVID outbreak; if there are available containers; and if we can get them loaded and away from a congested port area. That’s without mentioning what can happen when a container finally arrives at its destination port: massive issues with congestion and a lack of hauliers add to the kind of delays we have never seen before. Doubly frustrating is the fact that this is all outside our control. The reality is, delays now must be expected, anticipated, and then managed – with additional costs caused by these hassles and delays simply accepted and paid for, if you want to get your products.

On top of it all – we’re now facing energy shortages and price hikes, raw material cost increases, and the usual pre-Christmas/pre-Chinese New Year scramble for goods.

But let’s take a deep breath. It can be easy for all these problems and challenges at every turn to seem overwhelming. So, what are we doing about it at Plane Talking?

We’re drawing on every weapon in our armoury. Long and well-established business relationships with people we trust really matter at times like these. We’ve been working with some manufacturers for more than 30 years and know we can rely on them for the best possible deal. Our freight agent has been in the business for even longer, with contacts and expertise to help us navigate through the extreme difficulties of securing cost-effective freight options.

Our sourcing team is working to expand our manufacturing base: more options in more locations mean we have more flexibility on lead times and are not necessarily beholden to the huge shipping lines operating out of the Far East.

Basically, make sure you’re working with supply partners who have their eyes and ears focussed on all aspects of the supply chain and with your best interests at heart – leaving you free to focus on giving your passengers a great customer experience.

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