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What Happens to Your Supply Chain in a Heat Wave?

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If you’re sweating and finding yourself clinging to the air conditioner, it’s likely your supply chain is experiencing its own symptoms of heat exposure. But unlike you, it can’t just take a break and eat a popsicle. Effects can be compounding if not caught early. Here’s what to watch out for to keep your logistics plan in check during a heat wave:

Damaged Product

Wildly hot temperatures can burn crops, melt plastic, and warp steel. In these cases, it’s great to already be part of a cold chain network because you’ve already got temperature-sensitive protocols in place for your supply chain, though those systems do see extra strain. So, it’s important to ensure good maintenance is observed in advance of a change in weather because the quickest way to ruin profitability is with damaged products.

Increased Costs

Working with a supply chain partner who amortizes your warehousing costs over a long term contract can be a big win in a heat wave. It can limit the impact of added electricity needed to keep your cold chain moving as well as the stress to find more cold storage warehousing when it’s in particularly high demand. But it’s also possible you’ll need additional staff to keep your supply chain moving between heat exhaustion and potential overproduction.


Farmers plant their crops in waves so that they can continually have more produce come to maturity over a long length of time rather than one large harvest each year. In addition to a heat wave potentially burning crops ready to be picked, it can lead to crops that flourish in heat, like peppers, to come to maturity too quickly, simultaneously dropping the price and causing shortages down the line. This can put a huge burden on already bursting cold storage solutions.

Employee Safety Risk

Not only are systems, equipment, and product at risk in catastrophic weather. So are its people. They too are prone to overheat. Even in ideal warehouse conditions, workers are going to have more responsibilities in a heat wave than they would under normal circumstances. This makes it even more important to vet how your supply chain partners treat their employees. Any chain is only as strong as their weakest link. Don’t let it be something as preventable as staffing.

Overheated Tech

Just like your laptop, supply chain tech is less effective when roasting hot. A GPS, air conditioning system, Internet of Things sensors, scanners, hydraulics, and more are susceptible to slow downs and breakages in a heat wave. This is why it’s so important to work with a reliable multi-temperature logistics provider with layered contingency plans to ensure your product isn’t ruined in the case of the failure of a single layer of protection.

Delivery Delays

Usually when we are talking about weather impacting delivery, we’re thinking about rain and snow causing accidents and detours. But heat waves come with their own kinds of delays including melted asphalt, overheated workers moving more slowly, and overheated engines increasing risk for breakages.

Unforeseen circumstances can leave a huge impact on businesses, and even something as insignificant as a heat wave can have ripple effects throughout your organization. But customers don’t care about the challenges they’re facing because they too have end goals to meet. Working with a 3PL with cold chain expertise can help you create a supply chain contingency to resolve the effects of unpredictable weather patterns before they become a problem.

Tags: Cold Storage, Logistics, Supply Chain

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