How to plan delivery routes around the 10,000+ disruptive events and severe weather warnings that occur each month in the USA

Edut Birger
Marketing Associate

As humans, we plan as much as possible to mitigate problems that we might encounter. But disruptions occur anyway, and despite meticulous planning, obstacles will often emerge. This is especially true for companies operating in the delivery and transportation industries, where disruptive events can make or break a day, a week, or even months worth of profit.

Organizations such as the United States Postal Service have dedicated emergency management teams, but not every company has access to those kinds of resources. Whether it’s a parade route that shuts down busy streets, or a hurricane that leaves highways flooded, events influence delivery routes – and you can get ahead of their impact to mitigate their impact.

How events impact delivery routes

Natural disasters such as Hurricane Maria and the Camp Fires in California—both in 2018—had an economic impact of more than $91 billion. Some of these costs stem from infrastructure damage, and loss of resource access, but many are felt directly by businesses which experienced impacted demand, disrupted supply chains, higher waste disposal fees and the cost of urgent shipping of critical options and products. Disruptive events have enormous consequences for businesses and economies.

Unscheduled events are hugely disruptive because they upend well planned strategies.

For example:
  • A health warning might force your business to reduce your staff rostering and increase safety precautions while operating.

  • Severe weather like a hurricane could create unsafe conditions and force you to scale back deliveries.

  • A terror attack could cause a shutdown in a busy neighborhood that requires you to adjust delivery routes.

But few disruptions are entirely new or unique, which means it is possible and recommended to:
  • Get notified of an incoming disruptive event as early as possible

  • Have a data-driven contingency plan in place, informed by the impact of events that have historically impacted your demand

While we assume most disruptive events will decrease demand, the opposite is often true for businesses that provide delivery options. A large storm, for instance, will probably reduce demand and foot traffic around brick and mortar restaurants, but if you’re working in food delivery, bad weather is likely to drive up demand for orders. By understanding that an event is going to increase your demand, you can leverage those insights while tracking the storm location. This enables you to ensure that you’re staffing enough couriers to meet this increased demand, while also adjusting your route planning to keep your drivers safe while they’re on the road.

Your forecasts and operational processes need to be resilient enough to withstand unexpected events. As demand forecasts and supply chains become increasingly reliant on one another, any disruption to a step in the process can have a huge impact on your business and ability to serve your customers. Businesses need to invest in tools and data that will mitigate disruption impact.

Why is forecasting for disruptive events important and how to do it

Unexpected events can pop up anywhere, at any time. If you have forewarning, however slight, into events that will impact delivery routes like a fire or a flood, you can implement emergency plans to ensure that you're operating safely and efficiently. But accessing those insights at scale is a difficult problem to solve, especially if you operate in multiple cities, states, or even countries.

Critical to this is understanding the relative impact of each event. A flooded street corner is not as impactful as a flooded neighborhood or freeway. In the same way, the local Thanksgiving Parade may attract ten times the amount of attendees as a small street festival, yet the festival is more disruptive than the parade because you didn’t know it was coming and didn’t plan your routes around it.

Companies need to know not only when and where an event is taking place, but also what its relative impact is going to be for you. The festival example is straightforward, but tracking every possible disruptive event across multiple locations quickly becomes a time-consuming task. You can task 20 people to track events across the US full time and still miss high impact events (trust us, some of our customers used to rely on this error-prone strategy before discovering our data).

How external data helps planning delivery routes around disruptive events

Incorporating events into your forecasting models is the most effective way to ensure that you’re automatically accounting for disruptive events.

This process begins by analyzing historical data against your own internal data. PredictHQ has more than seven years of historical (most companies only store 2 years of historical data max, if at all), forecast-grade data and assists its customers to identify correlations between unscheduled events and your own demand patterns. Tap into the signal hidden in your own previous transactional data to identify which categories of events are most impactful such as floods, festivals, and more.

You can reveal insights by comparing the two, for example: you might find that on a certain day when you lagged on deliveries was the same day that a large parade shut down major city streets and required drivers to divert their routes. You can take these findings and apply them to future events. Now, when you see an upcoming parade that is similar in size and location, you can implement alternative routes and for how long, as well as manage delivery time expectations for your customers.

Event changes can also impact the way you plan your deliveries. If a government-mandated health warning goes out and that same impactful parade is cancelled, you want to be notified about it instantly so you can change your delivery strategies and ensure that you’re operating efficiently rather than wasting time and resources on pre-planned detours.

Try out demand data for free

Unscheduled events are often disruptive for both civilians and businesses alike. There are strategies you can implement to mitigate their negative impacts and capitalize on business opportunities that they present. By having a single source of truth for unscheduled event data, you can ensure that you’re accurately planning for potential disruptions as soon as they occur.

To learn more about how you can leverage event data to plan deliveries around disruptive events, sign up for a free trial of our demand intelligence data, or talk to an expert to explore your needs.