One of the biggest challenges facing exhibitors as live events are resumed are logistics delays. Lost freight, shipping delays, dislodged skids: These incidents are adding another layer of challenge – and stress – for exhibitors. But before exhibitors can hope to do anything to combat all the logistics issues inherent in trade shows, they must have a better understanding of what the issues are.
Why Are There So Many Shipping Issues?
The primary reasons for these shipping challenges are:
Labor shortages. The labor shortages that have been plaguing other industries have had an enormous impact on the shipping industry as well. This has certainly resulted in delays, but it has also had a significant impact on the number of existing drivers with the specialized experience necessary for managing trade show freight.
Increased costs. With increased fuel costs, higher wages to attract more drivers, and increased insurance costs, there has been a measurable increase in the cost of shipping, regardless of the service used.
Destination labor shortages. Shipping is not just about having enough drivers. Labor shortages continue to be an issue at destinations as well. Lack of labor becomes an obstacle to the organized shipping plan once the freight arrives, either to the advance warehouse or on site. Most decorators are having a difficult time expediting truck waiting lines (with drivers often waiting all day), unloading freight, and setting up the exhibits on time.
Other delays are often a result of weather, inaccurate address information, choosing an unqualified carrier, and holiday-related interruptions.
How Do Exhibitors Stay a Step Ahead of Shipping Challenges?
There are several ways exhibitors can manage logistics challenges, to prevent them from impacting their tradeshows and events. We recommend the following:
Be proactive. Anticipate delays. Plan early and order early so that you have more time to navigate the unexpected and still pull together a successful exhibit. Locally source anything you can to avoid shipping issues altogether. But give yourself more lead time. We recommend a minimum of 10 days, preferably two weeks.
Ship to the advance warehouse. Skyline Entourage recommends that exhibitors ship to the advance warehouse weeks ahead of the exhibition. “Ship your display to the trade show early and avoid last-minute worries. When you ship to the advance warehouse, you can feel certain your display will move in on schedule.”
Plan for higher prices. Shipping costs are roughly 30% higher than they were before the pandemic, so be sure to budget for the additional shipping costs, to prevent any last-minute surprises or additional delays.
Do the paperwork. It is essential to have your bill of lading and other paperwork correctly completed. Double-check everything on your forms, including the shipping address. Effectively avoiding errors can come down to a single digit in an address or zip code.
Implement proprietary trackers. In addition to taking advantage of the tracking provided by shippers, put technology to work for you by tagging the items you ship so that you can track them to their precise location. This same technology can be beneficial if your shipment is delivered to the wrong booth or has been delivered to the wrong address; it can also protect you in the event of theft.
According to Zengistics,
Supply chain visibility is one of the most important keys to preventing freight delays. When you can track the location and status of your shipments in real time, you can respond to [exceptions] as they happen and prevent those exceptions from creating substantial freight shipping delays.
Anticipate destination challenges. Not only do you need to understand the specific exhibit requirements for each show, but you need to plan, well in advance, how you’ll manage destination-side logistics. Some shows have specific arrival areas for deliveries, specific areas where items are staged, or a different shipping address for deliveries than for the show itself. You may need to hire your own contractor for unloading; however, be aware that local union laws may require only designated contractors. To avoid special handling, which will delay your delivery and truck unloading, Exhibit Options advises:
Don’t stack crates or pallets in the truck. Don’t ship in loose items – everything should be on a pallet or skid. Pack carpet and pad on a skid or on top of a crate. The simple rule is anything that makes the forklift driver get off the forklift will result in special handling for your entire shipment.
Exhibitors Can Overcome Many Logistics Challenges
While some delays may be inevitable, with labor shortages and weather being unpredictable elements, there are many steps exhibitors can take to stay ahead of logistics challenges. If you’re eager to get back to in-person events but want to avoid the headaches of logistics challenges, take our suggested steps and partner with ExpoVention. Our team works with clients, large and small, on everything from pre-show logistics to on-site operations and post-event evaluations. Get in touch to learn more.