Powering Polyethylene Supply Needs Through Technology
Delayed shipments and shortages of polyethylene (PE) have been a reality for converters for years, and COVID-19 and recent extreme weather events have only heightened those challenges. It doesn’t matter if delays happen because of weather, supply chain issues, or any other disruption, there are ways to power PE supply needs with the use of advanced technology
By Shell Polymers on Nov 11, 2020
Shortages Lead to Last-Minute Demands
COVID-19 lockdowns and slowdowns have cut into PE inventory levels, and a series of recent hurricanes have further impacted up to 15% of U.S. production of PE and polypropylene.1 Add in the labor and trucking shortages2 and you have a situation that leaves many converters without the supply they need while still expected to meet customer demands.
These extreme circumstances increased the already prevalent need for resilient and proactive supply chains. And converters are now forced to juggle the logistics of last-minute deliveries, eating up valuable time that would be better spent on core business functions. The situation highlights the PE industry’s urgent need for a more resilient and reliable supply chain.
Don’t Wait for Disruptions, Anticipate Them
With the prevalence of supply chain disruptions and the need for increased supply chain transparency, converters are looking to new solutions for their problems. As previously detailed, strategic resin transport options and adopting future ways of working can help alleviate supply chain difficulties for converters, but no converter should go it alone. Even with all the best planning and orchestration, emergencies can occur and suppliers need to be ready to help their customers.
One strategy that can help converters deal with these challenges is a proactive approach to supply disruptions. That means leveraging data, monitoring technology, and market intelligence to anticipate delivery disruptions rather than react to them after more time has passed. Early detection can help suppliers and converters address issues before they arise and lessen potential impacts on the customer.
For example, a supplier with a proactive approach could identify potential scheduling issues or delays and send resin via an alternative method of transportation. If there is railcar congestion causing a delayed shipment, trucks can be sent out to keep supplies timely. To do this properly, converters should look for suppliers who use Industry 4.0 technology and leverage data to provide insights into their proactive supply chain.
Address Complex and Urgent Supply Needs
With the complexity and fragility of the current PE supply chain, it’s not surprising that shipments get held up. However, those hold-ups don’t work for converters who need a consistent PE supply and want streamlined communication with their supplier.
That’s why Shell Polymers is putting systems in place to work with clients to help them forecast needs and anticipate disruptions. Take our owned and operated SIT (Storage in Transit) yard, for example. We’ll be using the latest technology within the yard to keep track of where our railcars are in real time, giving our team the ability to address any issues that may arise in transport. Once our PE products are en route to a customer, our team will have its eyes on the shipment and be ready to jump in if any problems start to bubble up.
Our CRC Log Visibility Tool also helps our representatives provide maintenance or another form of transportation to help the shipment arrive when it’s needed. And our CRCs (Customer Relationship Coordinators) will be in contact with customers, keeping them up-to-date about any shipment information as it is available. This ultimately means less time wondering where a shipment is, and more time focusing on your business.
Plus, to increase supply confidence even further, we’ve strategically located our PE production plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania, within 700 miles of most North American converters. The plant is also flood-resistant and winterized to protect it from freezing pipes, flooding, and other weather-related issues.
We understand the extreme circumstances our industry is facing and how that affects polyethylene supply chains across North America. With advanced technology and a proactive approach to addressing supply disruptions, suppliers may be able to alleviate some of the common challenges converters deal with today, letting them get back to growing their business.