Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine exploring innovations in the industrial sector.

The ongoing global supply chain crisis is leaving many businesses struggling to manage shipping delays. Customers are becoming more understanding of the situation as companies develop response strategies when schedules get backed up. Luckily, a few steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of delays in the first place. Here’s what businesses can do to streamline their operations and get order to customers faster.

Shift to Local Suppliers
While it may not always be possible, switching to local or domestic suppliers can dodge one of the main supply chain bottlenecks: the surging congestion at the world’s biggest ports. Luckily, a few steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of delays in the first place. The result is significant delays getting goods to their destinations.

By switching to suppliers and manufacturers based locally or at least domestically, businesses can shave a noticeable chunk of time off their shipping estimates. Domestic suppliers may cost more, but they will allow companies to deliver orders faster. This also helps stimulate and support local economies and communities.

Utilize Demand Forecasting
One of the best ways for businesses to avoid shipping delays is to predict demand and place orders well in advance. Various methods for forecasting demand work in conjunction with other techniques, such as JIT management and batch tracking. The general idea is to use information like sales data from previous quarters, stock trends and market research to estimate the ideal quantity of a product to order.

Successful demand forecasting relies on having a clear understanding of a product’s intended audience. Connecting with customers on social media can help businesses gauge people’s interests. If a social media post about a new product line generates a surge of online engagement, companies know they can probably expect high demand. They can even use a pre-order system for demand forecasting.

This kind of in-depth research enables businesses to get ahead of shipping delays. Good demand forecasting will ultimately save businesses’ and customers’ money.

Try Different Shipping Methods
Choosing an alternative shipping method could help businesses get around some of the bottlenecks in the global network. It may be tempting to opt for certain ways because they seem faster or are the mainstream choice. However, this is not always the case.

For example, industry experts have pointed out that shipping over short distances can be faster on the ground than in the air. While air travel certainly seems like it would be quicker, that’s not always the case. However, it’s generally the better option for longer journeys.

Similarly, a business that normally ships international freight overseas on cargo ships could benefit from spending the extra money for air shipping. This is not possible with some products, but the upgrade is often worth the price when it’s allowed. Faster shipping could result in more sales and more products getting out to customers.

A good rule of thumb may be to minimize the number of bottleneck points a shipment has to pass through. For example, sending items to a less convenient port or airport and then moving to ground shipping may help avoid shipping delays in more popular, overcrowded areas.

Streamline Last-Mile Logistics
It’s not always possible to avoid shipping delays from suppliers, manufacturers or international shipping companies, but businesses can take action with their last-mile logistics. Optimizing this stage can often make up for delays earlier in the shipping process. A streamlined last mile will minimize customers’ anxiety about their orders.

Businesses should begin streamlining by closely analyzing their current last-mile logistics. Pinpointing major inefficiencies will offer a good starting point. For example, a company might find that the third party responsible for their last-mile delivery is using inefficient routes. Switching to a different carrier might help resolve this issue. Experts also note that businesses can outsource their fulfilment logistics if they don’t have adequate expertise or resources internally.

It is also worth considering a pick-up option for local customers. A business might have to send customers to their local warehouse rather than a storefront, but doing so can ultimately save time and money for everyone. Additionally, if fewer packages need to be shipped for the last mile, the cost savings can be used to fund faster delivery for customers who are too far away for local pick-up.

Avoiding Shipping Delays One Step at a Time
The ongoing supply chain crisis can be highly frustrating for businesses as well as customers. However, implementing a few reliable strategies can ensure companies avoid shipping delays as much as possible. Ultimately, tackling today’s challenges may lead to a more resilient, adaptable network once the supply chain recovers. Organizations that evolve their processes now will get to lead the way tomorrow, resulting in happier customers who will likely spread the word about their positive experiences.