I have been sharing supply chain woe stories over the past year plus, ever since the Chinese commie crud took over the headlines. I work in the world of industrial distribution.
Many of those supply chain issues remain to this very day, and some are getting worse. I have been in the industry for 35 years (HVAC distribution specifically, a subset of industrial distribution) and with a mature industry such as the one I am in, supply chain always had ebbs and flows, however these were easily predictable and looked like a very shallow sine wave. Over the past year and continuing to today, the supply chain is very spiky and extremely difficult to navigate.
Disasters such as the Suez Canal closure and plants getting damaged in Texas over the Winter added to an already miserable time. Many businesses are opening back up and demand is surging as equipment that was previously mothballed or otherwise inoperative is coming online (and breaking). We continue to have transportation issues with LTL (for those who don’t know, LTL stands for Less Than Load, or semi trailers that are making deliveries of many skids of product to different locations rather than a straight shot to one location) being a disaster right now. Labor is a problem as many that were laid off have either moved to other jobs, or simply refuse to come back to work due to overly generous federal and state unemployment benefits.
The whole enchilada is quite the mess. Oddly, when I go to work in the morning I am resigned at this point to just saying to myself “I wonder what insane thing I will have to deal with today” and just put my head down and deal with it. When you get used to adversity things don’t bother you as much, I suppose.
I made the decision to never cancel any orders and simply take on more inventory. This hurts in the short term as cash flow and inventory turns are adversely impacted, but mission number one is to smooth out these spiky curves to our customers, so they can continue to make money – it needs to be my job to bear the brunt of this and to make it virtually unnoticed for our contractors. It remains quite the challenge. There will be major issues this Summer with imported equipment such as ductless mini splits, window airs and dehumidifiers imported from over there due to the persistent port delays on the West Coast. These issues are already happening. As hard as I am trying, I can’t get every product for every customer in these conditions. Most have been understanding. If they aren’t, well, I can’t unload the containers so….
Here is an interesting story about a different industry, flowers. I always take my wife out to a nice brunch for Mother’s Day. In addition, I always get her a corsage with three spray roses, the white ones with the red tips. I called the florist to order it up yesterday and the person on the other end laughed and said that they hadn’t seen spray roses in a year. In fact, when I go to pick up my corsage, they couldn’t even tell me what type of flower it would be. The shipment of flowers shows up and they have to make do with what shows up. She said that it was probable that I could get a single white rose but no guarantees. I told her that I could completely relate as I have been living this hell for a while too. She was pleased to speak with someone who was sort of in the same boat and went on to tell me that the last year was full of enormous challenges in the flower industry – that a lot of flowers simply didn’t exist to purchase.
While that is an anecdote, it is still telling of how we will likely see supply chain issues for some time to come.