Grocery store aisles have gaping empty sections and shoppers can never predict what will not be available. New car dealerships are struggling to fill their empty lots. People who build homes report long waits for critical materials like windows and doors. Almost every industry is experiencing shortages and delays which all boil down to supply chain issues.
Consumers and business owners are frustrated and confused. COVID-19 infection rates are falling and restrictions have eased in most parts of America. Shouldn’t things be better now?
BBB provides the following information on why supply chain disruption is still happening and advice on how businesses and consumers can combat it.
Everything from sandwich meat to appliances seems to be missing, but how did it come to this? The disruption is so hard to fix because many of the factors that caused it still exist. Also, once the global machine shuts down, it takes a while for things to start up again, and all the pieces have to work together. These causes triggered a chain of events.
- Governments around the world have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with shutdowns.
- Organizations stopped production and laid off employees.
- Component shortages have begun to affect everything from automotive production to medical device manufacturing.
- Fewer goods were produced.
- Demand surged as people stuck at home searched for goods. The goods they wanted changed as lifestyles changed. Funds previously allocated to things like haircuts, gym memberships and live entertainment are now being spent on products.
- Government stimulus programs have encouraged spending.
- The need for protective equipment has increased, and the shipping and delivery of related goods has been prioritized.
- Shipping containers started piling up in parts of the world where they weren’t needed and weren’t available where they were. Shipping costs have skyrocketed and ports have become congested.
- Companies have experienced labor shortages. Trucking companies, warehouses and ports remained understaffed, further complicating distribution.
- Due to personnel issues, the imports took a long time to be unloaded. Containers were not emptied and returned to be refilled, and loaded container ships stood idle outside ports.
- Consumers and businesses began to buy more whenever they could find it, which created additional problems in the supply chain.
Around the world, production continues to be hampered by labor and material shortages, so manufacturing is going in spurts. When one link in the supply chain is broken, it affects everything that follows.
How long will supply chain issues last?
Some economists say things should ease later in 2022, while others expect the problems to persist into next year. There are still not enough workers to unload the goods piled up at the ports or enough truckers to distribute the products across the United States. Although COVID-19 restrictions have recently eased, it will take some time to sort out a complicated situation that has lasted nearly two years.
Good practices for businesses
Costs are rising, employees are hard to find, and there is no end in sight. What can you do to keep your business running and your customers happy?
- Plan for more disruption – Nobody seems to have a working crystal ball yet, but you can expect more bottlenecks and shortages in the near future. Have more than one plan to deal with the next set of manufacturing and supplier delays.
- Streamline what you offer – If you are a restaurant, reduce your menu to include items that are easier to find. If you are a retailer, order more from the manufacturers who have always advised you.
- Create realistic expectations – Do not over-promise. Communicate to the public what you offer and how much is available.
- Offer incentives – If you’re running low on an item that’s in high demand, consider offering a coupon or incentive that will bring people back once you fill up.
- Invest in technology – Automate everything you can to free up overworked staff members for other things.
- Improve your local network – If you can find commercial resources near you, you avoid the hassle of importing.
Consumers know there are issues, and while it’s okay to wish we could return to the old normal, most people are understanding. Good communication goes a long way in times of crisis.
Advice for consumers on supply chain disruption
What can you do when your car breaks down and the local mechanic can’t get the part you need for at least six weeks? How can you react when it’s your child’s birthday and the gift he asked for can’t be found? What do you do when half of the items on your grocery list are out of stock? BBB Springfield Regional Manager Stephanie Garland shared some tips:
- Compare the prices – Sometimes grocery chains and big box stores have empty shelves, but local mom and pop stores have found a way to source merchandise.
- keep – Reduce what you use, so you don’t have to stock up as often.
- To keep – Appliances and automobiles are becoming more expensive and can be difficult to find. Invest in maintaining what you have so you don’t have to buy a replacement until today’s supply chain issues are in your rear view mirror.
- try new things – If you can’t find what’s on your list, imbue your search with a sense of adventure. You’ll discover flavors, brands, and methods you might otherwise have missed.
- express gratitude – Thank the person who fills the grocery store shelves for their hard work. Buy a cup of coffee from this trucker at the gas station. Show your appreciation when you’re seated in a restaurant, even if you had to wait longer than usual.
BBB tools that can help you
If you are a consumer, BBB can help you make informed purchasing decisions. Search BBB business profiles, file a complaint when companies don’t keep their promises, research ongoing scams and more using BBB resources and our Consumer HQ.
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BBB Serving Central East Texas contributed to this article.