As temperatures warm up B.C.’s Interior, the spring runoff may cause supply chain problems.
Last week’s atmospheric river triggered memories of November 2021, when flooding wiped out parts of the Coquihalla Highway, wreaking havoc on the supply chain and delaying the shipment of goods.
The supply chain must fundamentally change to accommodate an extreme climate, said Babak Tosarkani, an assistant professor in manufacturing at the University of B.C.’s Okanagan campus.
“Profitability was the main objective when setting up supply chains,” he said. “But from now on we need to develop a resilient supply chain, even if it isn’t as efficient.”
These changes take time, said Tosarkani, and in the short term, if natural disasters continue to damage critical infrastructures like roads and railways, rising costs will be apparent throughout the supply chain.
“These costs will be distributed between all the players in the supply chain, and one of the players can be the consumer,” he said. “Since we don’t have any short-term solutions to climate change, the best thing we can do is to make our supply chain more resilient by distributing inventory in multiple locations, estimating the market demand, using intermodal transportation and partnering with multiple suppliers.”
This may require looking abroad to international sellers to cushion the impact of extreme weather.
“If you rely only on your regional supply chains, you cannot have an efficient economy, that’s why we rely on products from international suppliers as well,” said Tosarkani.
Expanding the network to rely on different forms of transport will also help.
“Instead of relying on one mode of transportation, if we use other modes of transportation like transporting by train or by truck we can rely on more suppliers,” he said.
The B.C. River Forecast Centre has already issued several warnings, and the province is investing heavily in flood and fire preparedness.
“Following the extraordinary work that was done to reconnect these highways in December, we’re building back permanent infrastructure that will be equipped to better withstand the impacts of climate change and future extreme weather events,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Despite the changes, there will be challenges ahead.
“It’s a cultural issue that I think people are gradually getting used to,” Tosarkani said. “Instead of just focusing on saving costs and the profitability of the supply chain, we will focus on its resiliency.”
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