Shippers have run inventory stocks down so low that their demands for on-time performance by their carriers are at an extreme high. Any disruption could lead to a dreaded stock-out.
That's an interesting and important point made in this brief article from the U.K.-based IFW.
Unfortunately carriers, battered by overcapacity and resulting rate wars, are not in the best position right now to be providing optimal customer service.
Drewry’s has reported in the past that container line schedule integrity leaves a lot to be desired, although that was partly because of port congestion which has obviously eased due to lower volumes.
Yet it is true at the moment that inventory levels are falling, as they have been since late 2007.
As evidence of this, Steve Schulein, director of import services for National Retail Systems, said at a recent CSCMP forum in New York that the percent of domestically sourced freight being inducted into the NRS direct-to-store distribution network is much greater than it has been in the past. In other words, retailers are drawing more merchandise from the U.S. domestic DCs of their suppliers rather than directly from imports- an indication of inventory stocks being drawn down.
Although carrier schedules are out of their control, there are many things shippers can do to help ensure on-time delivery, by stressing this point to vendors and 3PLs and by ensuring that C-TPAT credentials are up to date, which will lower the possibility of container inspections.