Bill Villalon, president of the Americas region for APL Logistics, warned in a speech yesterday that contingency planning within supply-chain operations is now more critical than ever.

"In the aftermath of September 11, the three new watchwords for importers of consumer and industrial goods have become ‘contingency, contingency, and contingency,’" said Villalon, who spoke at a textiles and trade transportation conference in New York this week. "Importers and retailers of apparel, auto parts and other time-sensitive shipments need to be more focused than ever on ensuring time-definite delivery in today's volatile, indefinite world."

He added that companies must be intent upon precluding the possibility of broken supply chains, such as the shutdown of airfreight service in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, but cautioned that providing for rapid modal shifts or back-up sourcing options could involve adding new complexities to the supply chain.

"But this has become a reasonable price to pay, thanks to new Internet-based visibility tools that can give importers and retailers a better picture of where their goods are at any moment, making management of the supply chain easier and more efficient," Villalon said. "Specifically, these new information technology (IT) tools make it possible to reroute or rehandle goods in response to rapidly changing market conditions, or to mitigate a military contingency or natural disaster."

APL Logistics, based in Oakland, CA, provides intercontinental supply-chain management services. It is a subsidiary of Singapore-based NOL Group, a global logistics and ocean transportation company.