Navigating Pandemic-related Supply Chain Challenges

By Brooks Jamieson

The supply chain has been hit hard and unfortunately it will likely take years to fully recover. However, understanding the compounding and complicated factors involved will help you navigate these unprecedented times with patience. What’s more, it will prepare you for what to expect when you start your next flooring project.

Why the Supply Chain is in Crisis
Over the past two years, many people have redirected their money from travel and entertainment due to government Covid-19 restrictions and poured it into their homes, which have become much more than a place to rest your head. They now serve as an office, gym and daycare, among other functions.

On top of this, customer shopping habits have significantly shifted online. This has caused a shortage of shipping containers.

How so?

There are more imports to North America from Asia than exports the opposite way. In an effort to quickly return to Asia for the next shipment, ocean carriers have been leaving half or fully empty containers in North America. Due to the number left behind, there are long wait lines for ships at ports. In fact, some ports have completely run out of space and are refusing new containers. Others have started charging penalties; however, it is cheaper to pay the penalty than it is to ship an empty container.

The rise of e-commerce and overseas delivery, though, is not the only cause of the supply chain crisis. Early in the pandemic, many companies in both manufacturing and shipping laid off employees due to continued unplanned closures. When it was time to hire people back, they struggled to find skilled workers. As a result, they are facing sharply higher demand for goods with less labour availability, which is slowing down an already backed up process.

Dealing with Supply Chain Woes
Due to the high demand of containers, we have seen an unprecedented rise in shipping and freight charges. Companies must make up for that increase and they are generally passing these added costs on to consumers by way of price hikes for flooring materials. One way around this is to encourage clients to shop local or North American-made products.

The congestion at sea ports and limited number of shipping containers are also delaying orders, which can impact a project’s timeline. Because of this, it’s important to provide greater lead times to ensure a job is completed as scheduled. If on a tight schedule and coordinating with other tradespeople, consider shopping in-stock inventory that’s ready to take home that day.

Perhaps most importantly, always have a plan B (and C) in case your original plan does not meet the budget or scheduling requirements. This acknowledges the uncertainty we’re wading through and prevents project stress.

Brooks Jamieson is a social media/administrative assistant with Canada Nufloors Group Inc., a 100 per cent member-owned Canadian cooperative of Nufloors flooring stores. Currently, there are 24 locations across Canada. Brooks can be reached at [email protected].

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