Fluctuations in fuel costs and labor shortages have been impacting manufacturers dramatically over the past few months. With so many global events and economic phenomena disrupting our supply chains from all directions all at once, it has been extremely difficult for manufacturers to catch their breath and plan ahead.

One of the biggest challenges facing our supply chains is a significant labor shortage. According to a recent report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there are at least 4 million more job openings  than there are workers able to fill them. This has slowed down processes and made companies spend increasing amounts of time looking for new hires and a sense of stability in their teams.

Add persistent inflation and higher fuel costs, and almost every part of a production line and its transportation will be more expensive and harder to predict. So how can company leaders and decision-makers adapt their operations to make them more cost-effective in order to survive this turbulent time?

How manufacturing executives can make shipping operations more efficient

Executives can minimize the negative impacts of labor shortages and price fluctuations by increasing the efficiency of freight and shipping operations. Efficiency is a protective shield against external events, like the war in Ukraine or the pandemic; with transportation costing U.S. businesses over $1.85 trillion in 2021, it has the most potential to help or hinder your bottom line. Here are a few places to start:

1. Plan ahead, even in tumultuous times

Today’s climate is full of surprises, but that doesn’t make planning futile. Quite the opposite, in fact. By developing a freight operations strategy, including contingencies for disruptions and shortages, your company can follow the tides of shipping volume and avoid losing time and investment unnecessarily.

2. Develop scheduling flexibility

If you can have some agility in the timing of shipments, you will be able to take advantage of lower rates during off-peak seasons. The January to April months generally provide lower rates. Arranging a bigger bulk of freight operations for this late winter period could bring cost efficiencies that you can then spread to where you need it.

3. Embrace helpful technologies

Technology can be adopted and absorbed at each stage of shipping to track timing and contents, plus ensure delays and extra costs are picked up in real time. Gone are the days of needing to rely on manual and paper processes. Technology can assist an efficient shipping operation by automating more cumbersome tasks, saving shipments from unnecessary human error, and shaving valuable minutes from journeys.

4. Manage costs actively

There are ways to control and curb costs associated with freight operations. Adopting contract rates, for example, can provide some cost stability and predictability in the face of a market in flux. You can also negotiate certain costs from freight providers to obtain the best possible potential revenue. The key is to use your technologies to add data to your negotiation let providers see the sense in partnering with you.

Addressing these issues regularly and head-on will help your company maintain stability even as change continues happening. Optimize the agility of your operations, keep enhancing your bottom line, and reserve cashflow for your priorities other than freight. Most importantly, taking care of shipping operations in a more efficient manner enables products to reach customers, helping you prove your reputability.

Ali Hasan R. is the co-founder and CEO of ThroughPut Inc. (alt text: ThroughPut Inc., the artificial intelligence supply chain pioneer that enables companies to detect, prioritize, and alleviate dynamic operational bottlenecks. Ali’s unique experiences in onshore and offshore supply chain management in the United States, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bahrain, and Yemen have produced results for customers’ ongoing work, which is now featured at some of the world’s most recognized brands.