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    Continuing Supply Chain Issues

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 1st May 2021 (All posts by )

    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.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 8 Comments »

    One Thing Government Does Right

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 28th April 2021 (All posts by )

    Today was a long day. We finally had a couple of funerals that were delayed by the Chinese commie crud. One was for my wife’s grandfather who made it to the ripe old age of 95 and the second was for one of his sons, who lived to his early seventies.

    The service for both of them was at Camp Butler National Cemetery. While there was a lot of paperwork involved, the services went off very well. Camp Butler is extremely well maintained.

    Grandpa was in WW2 in India (I hope to someday offer his letters back home on this blog), and his son was in Korea. Both were cremated a few months ago. The government allows free plots for their ashes since they were vets, along with space for spouses later to join them. Also present today were two fine men from the DoD. From the uniforms they appeared to be active Army. They gave salutes to grandma (the son had no wife) and also presented the flags to her after folding them. After the services, one of them stood watch until the last of the guests drove away.

    Some locals from the Sangamon County Veterans were there. These gentlemen were volunteers and show up at Camp Butler for military funerals. They gave the gun salute (three shots from three rifles, after which they presented the shells to grandma) and had a man play taps. They also did a very short ceremony before the preacher did his deal. After they were done, these gentlemen beat feet quickly, and I wasn’t able to give them the tip – I will make a charitable donation to them later this week. It was very nice.

    As I mentioned previously, there was ample paperwork involved to get all of this arranged with the department of Veterans Affairs, but it did get done, and in a nice and proper way.

    Posted in Military Affairs, Personal Narrative | 14 Comments »

    The Shockingly Low Cost of Learning a Language

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 22nd April 2021 (All posts by )

    Right before the dawn of the Chinese commie covidian era I made a life decision. In late 2019 I decided to rid myself of any and all clutter, and get really good at a few things, rather than being super average at a lot. I just had too many hobbies and too many time sucks. I decided to jettison the banjo and gave that to my daughter. Also shot into space was my anti-library – I decided to either read it, or get rid of it. I had a few other small time hobbies that I got out of. So what was left was for me was to keep my regimen of physical fitness, work, and to learn French. When I say “learn French”, I want to be fluent.

    I took some French in high school and college, and after many years found an interest in it again. I downloaded an app or two to my phone, but that quickly got boring. After picking around with different things online, I decided on a much more traditional way to learn the language – start from square one, and go back to school, specifically adult continuing education. I know how to work, and learning a language is work, no matter what the ads you hear that say “ten minutes a day” want you to believe.

    After thinking about it, structured book learning and progression is the best way for me, and the schedule that I have. And adult continuing education isn’t graded or have a high pressure environment. All of the people in the class are taking it for enjoyment or professional reasons, and are, well, adults.

    I am fortunate to live in a town where there is a big assed university, so I hit the UW Madison website and they did indeed offer French in their adult continuing education offering. So I signed up for French 1, wanting a full review of things I already knew. The course was under $200 for 12 weeks of assignments and 1.5 hours per week of in person class. That’s quite a value. The assignments are a mixture of cultural things, grammar, video, audio, etc. All of this is hosted on the UW website. Towards the end of French 1 we got booted from the buildings because of the commie crud, but we finished with Zoom. I have to admit that it was sort of fun going back to school, walking on campus, and getting back to an institution of higher learning even though it was just basically “night school”. I hadn’t been to a structured class since 1990 and my days at U of I in Champaign.

    French 2 was done on all zoom, and I am now nearing the end of French 3, same thing. Each class was about the same price and the classes are very well run and extremely enriching. Already I am certain that if you dropped me in the middle of France and I had to get along, I could. I am well on my way to being fluent. My original plan was to be fluent in five years, but I think I can do it in three at my current pace.

    I will have to re-take French 3 as that level is exponentially tougher – it takes a little longer to progress to French 4, which are basically fluent persons who are brushing up or moving into the finer points of the language.

    In addition to this I hired a French teacher for some private lessons. We just log onto Zoom and talk for an hour at a time and she corrects my grammar and pronunciation. Invaluable. $50/hour. I bought ten lessons.

    I have also supplemented with some online items from the Coffee Break series. Coffee Break offers full blown courses and short weekly passages that test listening and comprehension skills. Again, minimal cost.

    I think that all of this would have been possible in the past, but harder to do. Zoom didn’t exist just a decade ago, so you would have to lose the time to travel for a face to face lesson if you were doing privates. While the in person classes would have been the same, the amount of video and audio resources available for free online are innumerable, and the ones in our class would have been much harder to distribute, versus just going to the UW website and downloading everything.

    With the numerous choices online I had to pick a certain strategy and avoid the noise. The competition is intense for this market.

    I got a mass market email today advertising an Air B and B like service in France (when it opens up). You can stay at someone’s house in France for a week who will speak French to you and take you around town and cook two meals a day for you. For $1500 a week. That is incredible and will be my next phase when I can do it.

    I don’t really have a point to the post outside of showing that to further yourself, all you need is desire and a little money (and not even that much money). Which certainly brings into question how a college can charge what they do to teach what they teach.

    Posted in Education, France | 23 Comments »

    Random Observations From the World of Industrial Distribution

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 15th April 2021 (All posts by )

    Things got kooky in my world last year, and they continue to be, well, interesting (I guess that is one word you could use – this is a family blog after all) this year. A few random notes for those who may be interested. For those who may not know, I own an HVAC distributor, which is a subset of industrial distribution.

    We recently received an increase of 15% in sheet metal fittings. The manufacturer just announced that due to continued pressure on steel, there will be another 15-20% increase coming in 60 days.

    This news about sheet metal fittings dovetails into some interesting news I have been hearing about new construction. Lumber and other materials are skyrocketing so fast that builders are going back to people who are building houses and redrawing up contracts and demanding more money. Banks aren’t appreciative. It’s ugly.

    Cans are in short supply. We sell a boatload of aerosol based cleaners for everything from commercial cooking equipment to air conditioners to refrigeration coils – I have heard that there are problems in aluminum, and cans themselves as the sanitization industry is taking up much of the can consumption for cleaners and germicides.

    One of the major HVAC equipment manufacturers that we represent announced a mid year price increase. I can only remember one other time this happened. It is rumored to be in the 8% range.

    An ice machine manufacturer just announced a 10% price increase, then another 20% on top of that one month later.

    There is a force majeure on one of the components that is used to make foam in a can – I think this is from the damage in Texas that was caused by the cold snap but I am not sure. This affects a lot of markets. I have heard that a refrigerator manufacturer is getting ready to idle production because they can’t get foam.

    Industrial distribution is on allocation for PVC pipe and fittings.

    Shipping woes worldwide continue. The Suez Canal thing didn’t help. Shipping costs are triple what they were last year.

    I am getting daily bulletins from all of our vendors with these types of things. With copper, steel, plastics, silver and chemicals all having problems right now and at record prices, it is going to be another interesting year, to say the least.

    Posted in Business | 45 Comments »

    The Suez Canal and Industrial Distribution

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 27th March 2021 (All posts by )

    As you all probably know, there is a ship stuck in the Suez Canal, which is blocking transit. You may not think this directly affects you, but it will. It’s just a matter of time.

    I own an HVAC distributor, and HVAC is a subset of industrial distribution. Most manufacturers are still reeling from last year’s Covid issues. Commodities like copper, steel, aluminum and sliver were already spiking in price before this latest logistics issue.

    I spoke with one of my major component suppliers this week. The cost of a container from Asia to the US was $5k last year. This year it is $15k. And there simply aren’t enough to go around.

    While the Suez blockage doesn’t directly affect this trade route, it does affect the overall global logistical issues – and wreaks havoc on just in time producers.

    I have one manufacturer of HVAC equipment that suspended all new orders a few months ago as they grapple with staffing issues.

    When you combine all of this, I don’t think that there is any question that there will be finished good shortages again this Summer. First affected will be stuff made “over there”. We are already seeing shortages on things like ductless mini split systems because of the continuing port slowdowns on the west coast of the USA. It isn’t even Summer yet.

    Here is where it affects you. The guys who have the stuff will win. Hands down. I made an enormous inventory investment this Winter and Spring, placing orders far in advance of what I normally would. I’m not going to let that investment go to waste – and I’m not spending basically every waking hour getting stuff in my barns to help my contractors get their jobs done for nothing. If I’m the only guy who has it (and trust me, on some things, I will be) – the price just went up. It’s nothing personal, just business.

    Believe me when I say that I wish my life were easier and yours cheaper, but I won’t be alone in this. If you end up with an issue with anything from car parts to electrical to something as simple as a washer breaking down, you will be paying more in the very near future.

    Sorry.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 77 Comments »

    ChicagoBoyz Waiting Room Series: 32

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 15th February 2021 (All posts by )

    Posted in Waiting Rooms | 4 Comments »

    Industrial Distribution One Year Into Covid

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 10th February 2021 (All posts by )

    It was around a year ago now when we started to hear about this thing called Covid. My kneejerk at that time was “it’s just the f1cking flu”. Quite the year.

    For those not acquainted, I own an HVAC distributor, and we are a subset of industrial distribution. I have written some updates along the way of this new Covidian world. Here are a few more thoughts of where we were, where we are, and where I think we are going.

    1) I thought our AR was going to be ravaged. Boy was I wrong. AR is as healthy as it ever was. We probably have some PPP money being used improperly by some customers, but the fact of the matter really is that HVAC in general has been very, very strong. People had to stay at home and with extra money from not going on vacations decided to upgrade their HVAC systems. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) was obviously a very good driver for us in both residential and commercial segments.

    2) I originally thought that replacement parts would be an issue. Nope. It was all about finished goods, and still is. Our main domestic provider of HVAC equipment is digging out of the hole that seemed infinite in nature, caused by all of the distributors cancelling everything during the original shutdowns, and then re-ordering everything x 2 or more when the weather got hot in Summer. It was brutal, but we worked through it. All of the favors were called in, and I scoured the USA for new trading partners to come up with some solutions. That work paid off and will pay off in the future as now I have more partners to rely on. I have never worked so hard to get product – one week I worked 100 hours. I have had one day off since last February that wasn’t a holiday. Not looking for sympathy – these are things that you do when you are the boss but I’m glad we have a bit more normalcy now.

    3) Right now, the ports on the West Coast are a mess, and there is a major container shipping issue to/from Asia. This is already causing hella problems with items such as ductless mini split systems, PTAC units, window airs, dehumidifiers, and the like. We are going to see major issues in these segments when it warms up.

    4) Inventory controls are out the window. Product comes in surges rather than the patterns we were used to that had been developed over decades. We are still getting orders in on some items from last July. It is very tough to manage. We don’t dare send anything back to the manufacturers for fear of not getting the items again, but our turns are a farce right now. There really isn’t a solution, and we hope that our normal buying/supply patterns return later this year. I have rarely used my line of credit in the past, but until this thing normalizes, I have no choice.

    5) Competition isn’t working as hard as I am. I really am happy about this as I am seeing new customers and coming up with innovative solutions or new products/vendors, and a lot of my competitors have either given up or just aren’t that interested in trying new things. It has really opened some doors. Hard work does create luck.

    6) I protected, and continue to protect, our long time, loyal customers when the availability sh1t hit the fan and shielded them fiercely when other contractors came calling as their distributors ran out of product. We immediately halted new dealer acquisition and allocated product to “our guys”. My customers were very thankful for very few product outages. This created some angst as these potential new customers were offended when I politely told them to “pound it”, but that’s too bad. We did the right thing.

    7) The future is bright. If we can get a handle on the inventory, we feel that there will be a burst of commercial work coming as companies get fully back up and running. I think that residential won’t slow down any time soon either. This polar vortex we are currently experiencing pushed a lot of units over the edge.

    8) Some items are still hopeless. MERV 13 filters are a complete joke, along with UV product. MERV 13 filter lead times still sit at 16-20 weeks. Want a backup generator for your house? 20 weeks minimum. Our Bipolar Ionizer manufacturer that we represent has done a fantastic job re-supplying so that fight is over for now.

    There is a lot of work left to do, but in general, we are finally, mercifully seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 27 Comments »

    Finnish Pecan Balls

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 6th February 2021 (All posts by )

    Winter has fully set in here in flyover country and we are in the midst of our first and hopefully only polar vortex of the season. This gives plenty of inside time, and time for me to dive into my grandmother’s recipe box.

    Today we have Finnish Pecan Balls. I have no idea why the are Finnish, and honestly didn’t know what I was getting into when I started this one. When they were finished I said to myself “oh thooooose” when I realized that these where the dry, crumbly, sugary, tasty things that were on every single Christmas cookie platter I had ever seen since I was a wee lad.

    1/2 lb. butter
    4 tbsp sugar
    2 cups pastry flour (I used regular flour and it worked just fine)
    1 tbsp vanilla
    2 cup pecans cut coarse (I used almonds as my spousal unit overbought and they turned out great)

    Cream butter and sugar. Add flour, vanilla and nuts. Roll in hands size of butter balls (I went around an inch to an inch and a half). Bake 15 to 20 minutes in hot oven (come on grandma). I went 18 minutes at 350. Roll in powdered sugar while hot. Makes 3 doz.

    I ended up with 29. Super easy and delicious. Have a napkin handy or eat over garbage can.

    Posted in Recipes | 8 Comments »

    Your “It’s Gonna Be A While Before You Get Vaccinated” Banana Cherry Nut Bread Recipe

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 30th January 2021 (All posts by )

    I have been rewarded with many correct calls so far while watching the botched and hilarious clownshow that is the vaccination rollout. Just about every single thing I predicted would come to pass, has. These predictions included:
    1) Sensational tales of adverse reactions to a vanishingly tiny amount of people (I’m guessing these are the same communists that can’t eat peanuts)
    2) Freezers “breaking down” and/or vaccines getting “misplaced” and heroic technicians vaccinating random people (Does anyone really believe these stories? Or at a minimum doesn’t everyone assume we are missing at least part of the story?). The media always, always has to have a hero.
    3) Ridiculous systems and classifications of those supposed to receive the vaccine
    4) Logistic and other failures
    I have worked in industrial distribution all of my adult life, and know a thing or two about logistics. I also know a thing or two about government. I can’t think of too many worse combinations than logistics and government. Naturally, and predictably, the vaccination program is a total and complete farce. If we just would have left it to Walgreens and/or CVS and let them make some money at it, the whole shebang would probably be done by now, subject to availability of the vaccines of course. The whole debacle makes me sigh out loud, and creates hunger. I looked through grandmas recipe box and found a recipe that worked perfectly as I had exactly three bananas that were “on sale”, so to say, in my fruit basket.

    This recipe is attributed to Alice Petersen, and is marked by my grandmother on the card as “very good”. I agree. It is very good.
    Banana Cherry Nut Bread
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1 10 oz jar cherries and juice – leave the cherries whole *I love ingredients like this. Upon going to the supermarket, it quickly becomes apparent that cherries are not sold in jars anymore, nor in 10 oz sizes. I saw a 15 oz can but was then faced with the choice of cherries in heavy syrup or water. I chose water and it worked out. I just cut the 15 oz can down to 2/3 (and naturally, began to snack down the other 1/3 of the can, before having to give some to my spousal unit, who threatened to burn my possessions in the street if I ate them all). I’m guessing back when grandma wrote this one up that the packaging for cherries was quite different than it is today.
    1/2 cup butter or margarine
    3 mashed bananas
    2 cups flour
    1 tsp soda
    1/2 cup walnuts

    Cream the sugar and butter; add eggs; mix. Then add bananas and mix thoroughly. Blend in flour and soda. Add cherries, juice and nuts and stir until mixed. Pour into 2 small loaf pans and bake one hour at 350.

    Super simple and rewarding. Enjoy!

    Posted in COVID-19, Recipes | 9 Comments »

    Your Post Apocalyptic Cinnamon Coffee Cake Recipe

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 23rd January 2021 (All posts by )

    Well, after all fifty state capitols being assaulted last week as predicted by the FBI and an extremely excited media, along with an inauguration that was marred by violent, huge mobs of country overthrowers and coup starters, I’m in the mood for some coffee cake.

    When my grandmother died many years ago and we were doing her death cleaning, I wanted just a few things – the collection of antique beer steins, the stand mixer and the box of recipes. I was fortunately granted all of the above. Today’s recipe is one that grandma got from one Clara Jensen according to the index card, a person I don’t necessarily remember. This coffee cake turned out really good, but in general, most coffee cake, to me at least, has a ceiling as far as quality and taste goes. It is very easy to make and of course you can alter to your taste but this is pretty solid.

    2 cups flour
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 cup brown sugar

    Sift all of these dry ingredients together. Mix that with:

    2/3 cup room temperature shortening
    2 eggs
    1 cup buttermilk
    Put in a 9×13.

    Topping:
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    nuts (optional)

    Sprinkle topping on top of dough.

    Bake at 350 for 25-30 mins. I went 28 and it turned out just fine.

    Enjoy!

    Posted in Recipes | 17 Comments »

    Marching to the Beat of Pretty Much the Same Drummer

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 8th January 2021 (All posts by )

    Quite the week out there in DC. Meanwhile, back in flyover country, things seem somewhat, well, the same. Let us unpack a few things.

    I am in the HVAC business, the owner of a distributor. Business is good. Since it is Winter and it is cold, we are firmly into the H of HVAC. Heating products are selling briskly. Customers coming in the door seem to be acting as they always have. Outside of a little water cooler talk about the riots in DC, the employees seem to be acting exactly the same. In fact, if I didn’t know about the riots, this could be pretty much any week in any January.

    But…social media and all that. While waiting for some cream cheese to come to room temperature for a key lime pie I am making (the pie is completely inauthentic and made with Persian lime juice to boot) I decided to look at a few news sites and scroll twitter a bit and then write this post. What a cesspool social media is. Lots of CAPITAL LETTERS and rage and fury.

    I see that the same benefit of a few “bad actors” won’t be applied to this riot like all of the other ones over the Summer. Hey that’s not fair! Sorry I laughed out loud while I typed that. We know. We get it. Too bad everyone couldn’t have gotten their panties in a bunch when the idiots were trashing the Federal Courthouse in Portland (they still are from what I hear) or any of a number of other federal, state and municipal buildings, as well as billions of dollars of private property – some of which literally went up in smoke.

    I saw some video of the cop in the Capitol blowing that poor woman away. Looks bad. Will be interesting to see how he is treated.

    Lots of calls for Trump to resign, get 25th amendmented, impeached and all that. I haven’t actually had time to hear exactly what he said, but I’m guessing that it wasn’t “hey thanks to all of you for coming, now get your asses up to the Capitol and trash that thing”.

    I have to go to work tomorrow to get some things done that I couldn’t attack during the week. I plan on keeping off of social media as usual, and letting the screamers scream. I won’t hear them.

    Will this event go down in the annals of history and be one of those “I remember where I was when” moments? I don’t think so. I could be wrong. I have a pie to make.

    Posted in Current Events | 37 Comments »

    Things Politicians Like: Alternate Covid Care Facilities

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 22nd December 2020 (All posts by )

    When the books are written about Covid and 2020, I hope to buy the one that lists everything that was dumb and wrong. I feel that at the top of the list would be the lust for politicians to show that they are “doing something” with the alternate care facilities.

    This whole thing started with Cuomo and the big ass boat that parked in New York harbor, that ended up treating a hilariously low total of 182 patients before (I assume) the Navy said “f this”. I think New York also did the Javits Center and that also shut down pretty quickly. I still remember laughing at Cuomo when he was all but crying “we need fohty tousand ventuhlatuhs”. Of course, we now know that most of the people on ventuhlatuhs were getting their lungs blown up, but I digress.

    Governor “you all stay home but myself and my family can do whatever they want during Covid” Pritzker of Illinois and Chicago Mayor Lori “lockdown for you, unless you are blowing up the city or going to a Joe Biden rally” Lightfoot gave each other a high five (figuratively) when they opened up McCormick Place to see Covid patients. A cool $81 million to treat 38 patients. That’s $2,131,578.95 each.

    Recently the governor of Wisconsin, “one term” Tony Evers opened up an Alternate Care Facility outside of Milwaukee, at the Wisconsin State Fair Park. I have been watching the patient count there – you can too, right here. From Saturday to Sunday, there was an insane increase of 20% (!!!) of patients. While this sounds menacing, we went from five to six in reality (see, I can do covid pOrn just as good as the media). Since then we have had a FIFTY percent reduction in patients at that facility, from six down to three. I would assume that this place will also shut down fairly soon. But good on the docs and nurses there, I am sure they are catching up on some reading, knitting and whatever else they haven’t been able to get to as of late.

    Posted in COVID-19 | 20 Comments »

    Auto Sellers Inventory Question

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 14th December 2020 (All posts by )

    I drive an Acura MDX and the dealership keeps sending me emails begging me to take a 2020 at a super duper deal. I am patiently waiting for the 2021 version to come out as it has many improvements, supposedly. I drive by the dealership on the way home and they have a LOT of 2020’s in their lot. Does anyone reading this know if the dealership actually owns that inventory or if it is consignment? Any way you slice it, that’s a lot of aging, expensive cars sitting around.

    Posted in Business | 8 Comments »

    Industrial Distribution – A Positive Update

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 7th December 2020 (All posts by )

    I own an HVAC distributor – HVAC distribution is a subset of industrial distribution, at least in the US. I have been trying to give our readers some “boots on the ground” updates as we have been winding our way through a hectic 2020 with the virus.

    All along the main problem for us has been finished goods. I thought when all of the shutdowns started happening that parts and pieces would be the main issue as a lot of that comes from “over there”. Not the case. Parts were never really a problem.

    LTL and parcels were and continue to be an issue. The stuff shows up, but it is always late and we are seeing very poor quality work with damaged skids, missing boxes and the like. Not horrible, but everything is slow.

    American factories, where most of the HVAC that is consumed in the USA is made, had immediate and lasting issues brought about by a few things. Covid safety procedures made people space out on assembly lines, slowing them down. People working from home and not able to go on vacation decided to invest that money into new HVAC systems (they also upgraded plumbing, roofing, electrical, etc). Add to this a relatively hot Summer and demand was quickly outstripping supply. All I did the past six months was work contacts, and try to source equipment from anyone who would sell it. I used many non-traditional partners (more on this in a minute) but it was job number one to keep our contractors moving. I have never worked so hard in my life trying to keep the barns full.

    Over the last month or so, shipments have been much more freely arriving from the factories, taking a major load off of my shoulders. I don’t know if suppliers cancelled orders (I’m guessing some, but not a lot) or if the factories just said “to hell with this” and started crowding the assembly lines back to normal (maybe) or if everyone who was going to get the crud already had it (no clue). Probably some stuff I am missing too. I guess I don’t really care, but I know that my barns are full again, with just a few exceptions, which is normal for this time of year. Hooray!

    MERV 13 filters, you can fuggedaboudit. 4-6 month lead time. I don’t expect that to change any time soon, but you never know. It was always a small portion of our volume anyways. Most people are moving to MERV 11 (lead times extending, naturally) or our stock MERV 10.

    As far as the non traditional partners go, it was interesting to do business with different people and through different channels when I was sourcing product any way possible. I have made some new friends and business partners who I think will help me in my business plans over the next few years. I found some deals I didn’t know existed and met some knowledgeable people (virtually), one of whom I may start trying to recruit. These new business avenues were a pleasant surprise in the hell I was living in last Summer.

    I am happy to report that coming to work, with the exception of me wearing a mask in my office, is just about what it was like in December of last year. We are very fortunate to be an essential business but yikes, what a ton of work 2020 has been. I need a vacation, but doubt that will be happening until we get the vaccines distributed as things are still pretty fluid with staffing and such but finally – finally – there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 15 Comments »

    Vitamin D

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 2nd December 2020 (All posts by )

    When the ‘rona began here in the US, the first thought I had was that those with vitamin D deficiencies were going to get ‘rona easier and probably have a harder time if they do get it than those who are not vitamin D deficient. I’m not a doctor by any stretch, but I do know that Vitamin D helps the immune system. It appears that my original thoughts were correct.

    I take a multi vitamin daily that has 1,000 IU of Vitamin D3, which according to the label is 250% of my recommended daily intake. The Mayo Clinic recommends 600 IU/day. Mr. Manifold in the post below is quoted thusly:

    Essentially everyone in the population should take 4000 IU (100 mcg) of vitamin D₃ per day, and many people should take 10,000 IU (250 mcg).

    No links are provided to support his recommendation, however I have heard of others in my immediate circle who are jacking their intake to 4,000 IU.

    I surfed around a bit and of course found conflicting info. Does anyone reading this have concrete proof/evidence of how many IU/day a normal, healthy middle aged guy should have?

    Posted in COVID-19, Health Care | 21 Comments »

    Port Congestion on the West Coast

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 19th November 2020 (All posts by )

    For those not aware, I work in the world of industrial distribution. Today I received an interesting note from one of my vendors.

    They are experiencing product shipment delays to their USA customers due to “congestion at the ports”. First one of these I have received.

    This particular product (it is a finished good, not a part) is made in Korea, so I have to assume this is the West Coast.

    So, let me try to understand this.

    Covid isn’t a problem “over there”? They are making so much stuff that our ports are clogged? Or is it a problem and they just don’t care?

    As I mentioned in a previous post, the mighty struggle right now is getting finished goods from factories in the USA due to covid related sick outs and factory slowdowns due to new safety procedures. If the rest of the world is working in a normal fashion and able to make enough stuff to clog our ports, why aren’t we?

    Or are we getting so many sickouts at the ports that they can’t unload the ships? And why is this happening now instead of a few months ago?

    I’ve been in business long enough to know that something smells. Bad.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 23 Comments »

    Industrial Distribution 9 Months Into Covid

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 16th November 2020 (All posts by )

    Around every three months or so I am trying to put up a post on how it is going in the always exciting world of industrial distribution. I own a HVAC distributor, which is a subset of industrial distribution.

    Not too much has really changed as far as my job goes over the past three months, with a few notable exceptions.

    The really big bugaboo is finished goods. Things like furnaces, condensing units, evaporator coils, etc. are still difficult to get and are being rationed. All of the favors are being called in, and it is all hardball, all the time. Very stressful. I have incurred freight costs like never before sourcing equipment from regions of the country that perhaps over ordered, or don’t need particular products. But it is job number one to keep my contractors busy and making money. Their success is our success. I have never worked so hard and so many hours – I am really, really tired. Basically all I do all day is go over my inventory reports and try to fill holes. Then in the evening or on weekends I do my “regular work”.

    Parts and pieces are, remarkably, a much different story. There has never been any sort of real disruption in parts. I expected things in this area to go south rather quickly, as many components and parts are made “over there”, but it really never happened. Sure, there is an issue here and there, but nothing to really talk about.

    I expected AR to be a complete and total mess but that never really happened either – yet. I don’t know if companies are using PPP money to pay their bills, or maybe we just have a more resilient industry than most but AR is really in damned good shape.

    Covid in our company – we got our first positive a month or so ago and have had a few since and several spouses who were positive. All cases were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms. At first it was a huge deal, now we all know the procedure and just do it. We are doing everything we can at our facilities to stop the spread such as installing bipolar ionizers, staggering shifts and reducing hours, disinfecting common areas, along with mask wearing and distancing (and a number of other things). We are pretty proud that all of our cases were able to be tracked to events outside of our workplace thus far. But we aren’t counting any chickens.

    HVAC is about as essential as an industry can get in the Winter months and we are hoping to keep as fully staffed as possible and keep things moving. This year has been exhausting with all of the changing rules between different states, different counties, and all the rest. I haven’t had a day off since February and don’t expect one any time soon, as we need a decision maker on hand at all times until sh1t calms down, just a bit. We will squeak out a single digit increase in volume through it all, and we are very thankful to the man upstairs that we are so fortunate to be in an essential industry, unlike so many others.

    Don’t forget about all of the maintenance people and mechanics – they are heroes too, not just medical people in all of this.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 11 Comments »

    It Isn’t That Bad, Really

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 5th November 2020 (All posts by )

    Some unsolicited thoughts on this election. I’m not one that plays politics too much, just a guy running my business trying to do my best.

    Trump is probably going to lose is my gut at this point (but he could very well still pull this out). I’m not one that is all “bring in the feds” in most situations, but we need a federally standardized election system. This business of seeing the number, then back counting as many ballots as you need like in Michigan and Pennsylvania to fix the result is insane. Lets assume for a moment that there is exactly zero vote fraud. The current system where some states can count their ballots in five minutes and some take six days simply makes some people believe that their candidate got heisted, and they will never believe otherwise. Of course there can be fraud if this is moved federally, but I feel that if we just simply said “this is the machine, this is how you vote, if the vote isn’t here by 8pm on election day, too bad so sad”, well, how hard could this really be. I understand that these different states having different chaotic systems is a feature to some, not a bug.

    Outside of Trump maybe losing, the Republicans pretty much crushed it with everything else (making the obvious fraud above even more ridiculous). State houses were held/improved upon, the House had unexpected gains, and fancy pants Nancy is going to have her hands full with her cadre of idiots making all sorts of insane demands. The Democrats will 100% screw up whatever they do. The Senate will probably end up R, also good.

    The markets have shown over the past few days that a divided government is a good one for business.

    If anyone believes a political poll on anything, well, I don’t know what to tell them. Those businesses should all never be patronized again and should just close up shop. 100% worthless.

    Prediction: If he wins, Biden will either resign or be 25th amendmented by the midterm election. Is anyone going to really start asking him questions about foreign policy or…anything?

    Prediction 2: Republicans take the House in 2022, and will make (potentially) Harris’s life super fun if they keep the Senate.

    That’s about all I’ve got and all I have time for (see aforementioned business). OK, let me have it in the comments.

    Posted in Elections, Politics | 47 Comments »

    MERV 13 Filters and Unrealistic Expectations

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 22nd October 2020 (All posts by )

    So here we are around nine months into this covid deal, and things are getting more unrealistic by the day.

    We are hearing, but don’t have proof, that municipalities and other governmental orgs are requiring MERV 13 filters for buildings. Which brings us to a couple of problems.

    I run an HVAC distributor and we are getting lots of calls for MERV 13 filters. We represent four filter companies. Two aren’t taking orders for MERV 13 product and of the other two, our best lead time is 4-6 months. For those who want to wait, we are encouraging them to buy a years supply and just store them.

    We are even having trouble getting our standard pleated MERV 10 product due to factory production slowdowns because of covid. So we are getting some of the shooting of the messenger by our customers, but we can handle that OK.

    Why the long lead times? Besides the crushing demand, the same companies that make media for masks, make media for MERV 13 filters. You can guess where priority is right now. Also, nobody has told me if the filters, presumably loaded with covid, will be someday declared a hazardous waste by OSHA, making their changeout completely ridiculous. Not to mention that MERV 13 filters create enormous amounts of static pressure, which will be terrible for a lot of systems, especially older ones. There are already rumblings of certain equipment manufacturers engineering departments getting ready to go to war with the authorities mandating these filters, and declaring “no warranty” on equipment failure due to lack of return air and MERV 13 filters putting their equipment out of engineering spec. This is super fun.

    We have been recommending for a long time that people use standard pleats in combination with a bipolar ionizer or UV product, both of which in the past few months have received covid killing certification. We are hoping this MERV 13 train isn’t fully out of the station just yet and that everyone will start to get a bit more realistic. But since it is 2020 we aren’t expecting much.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 16 Comments »

    Plastic Pipe and You

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 10th September 2020 (All posts by )

    Preface – I own an HVAC distributor – HVAC distribution is a subset of industrial distribution.

    I received today an interesting letter from our supplier of PVC fittings. PVC is used in everything from plumbing to venting furnaces and a lot of applications in between. Every single contractor in the USA uses a PVC type product in their daily grind. The letter talked about several price increases from PVC resin suppliers – I have seen this before, and it isn’t too terribly unusual (any excuse to raise the price, right?). But also, there was this:

    Hurricane Laura dealt a devastating blow to the Gulf Coast of Louisiana where a substantial amount of PVC resin and related plastic raw materials is produced. Hurricane Laura damaged many chemical plants, including those in the PVC supply chain, and left many without any electricity. Two of the four PVC resin manufacturers have declared force majeure. Hurricane Laura also severely damaged portions of the railway system used to transport PVC resin from the Gulf Coast to various locations across the country. Depending on the severity of the damage to these manufacturing plants, regional infrastructures and railway system, the time required for us to receive PVC resin could be negatively impacted.

    Which is all to say that many building projects will see further delays, and the price just went up. Add to this the difficulty we are seeing with finished goods such as furnaces due to covid related production issues, and raw material price increases (silver) and it all makes for a miserable time to be an industrial distributor – although a time that has provided opportunity and rewards hustle and thinking outside of the box. I have never worked harder at keeping the barns full, but my contractors are very thankful and understand the challenges.

    Energizer batteries is even having covid related production issues. I have never been out of batteries before, but I guess we have never seen a year like 2020.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 6 Comments »

    Jury Duty Question

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 6th September 2020 (All posts by )

    If you are in a state that does not mandate pay for jury duty, I am curious to know what your employer pays you for jury duty, or if you are a business owner, what you offer. We are putting together a policy at my company and I am interested in what the going rate seems to be. Thanks in advance.

    Posted in Crime and Punishment | 15 Comments »

    Industrial Distribution Six Months Into Covid

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 22nd August 2020 (All posts by )

    Back when the pandemic shutdowns started (let’s say late March, early April) I had to seriously think about what I was going to do with and for my small business. For those not familiar, I own an HVAC distributor, and that industry is a subset of industrial distribution. The media circus had driven everyone to the point of exhaustion with all of the dire reports and things were bleak. The local governments in my areas took draconian measures and this wasn’t helping. So, as I usually do when facing a big problem, into a quiet room I went to just sit and think for a bit. Below the fold are some results.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 14 Comments »

    Covid and HVAC Systems

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 6th August 2020 (All posts by )

    Disclaimer:
    I am not one of those guys with a lot of letters behind my name. All of what you are about to read are my own thoughts on the subject based on my thirty years of experience in the field of HVAC distribution and you are getting exactly what you are paying for. I have to generalize a bit so your particular HVAC system may not be described in full – the universe is simply too large. Even if you follow this advice, you still might get covid. Forward.

    There have been a lot of articles recently about the virus and how it transmits and moves around in air currents, in particular the ones that are created by HVAC systems in your domicile or your place of work. Some of these articles have been pretty decent, and a lot of them pretty dismal. Below are my thoughts on the virus. A lot of this is based on our past experience in the industry when anthrax was all the rage.

    There are three main ways to lower your chances of meeting the virus up close and personal, as relates to HVAC systems. These are in my order of preference:
    1. Dilute it
    2. Zap it
    3. Trap it
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in COVID-19 | 24 Comments »

    Feds Begin Pressing Charges

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 28th June 2020 (All posts by )

    It took a bit, but the Feds have begun the process of charging, and hopefully, if guilty, incarcerating those responsible for criminal activity during the riots of the past few weeks. One notable case was worked here in Madison – the arrest of this person was what sparked the riots last week. If you read the indictment of this person, he was extorting local businesses and, in general, being a total and complete nuisance. Enjoy your time in club fed, dude.

    A different person that I know was recently charged with a federal crime, convicted and sent to prison – this case got me interested in federal cases and from my bit of research, it appears to me that at least 99% of those cases end up with plea deals or convictions. In other words, if you are charged by the feds, from what I have been reading, there is likely a lot of good evidence against you.

    I am happy that this is happening. I grew up in Rockford, IL and I was always amazed that the Chicago and State of IL legal folks couldn’t ever get anyone prosecuted for all of the bribes, kickbacks and other nonsense in Chicagoland. Only the feds would do it. Seems like a similar deal is happening with the new rioters.

    Posted in Big Government, Crime and Punishment, Current Events | 32 Comments »

    History of Jamaica Book Suggestions

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 27th June 2020 (All posts by )

    Ladies and Gents,
    I am looking for recommendations on books about the history of Jamaica, told from a neutral standpoint if at all possible. If you know of a great history of the Caribbean in general that includes Jamaica that is also fine. I recently read James Michener’s “Caribbean” and very much enjoyed it and it inspired me to learn a bit more about the history of the area. Thanks in advance.

    Posted in Book Notes, History | 6 Comments »