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The global supply chain never goes on vacation

As per the usual, the first day or two back from a vacation can be quite the grind. That does not make me unique, not so in the very least. But it does mean that vacation was really good, for which I am grateful, as it had been a very long time since I had gone on a “real” one.

I could write about vacation for a while, but that will have to wait for another column, I think. But one thing which stood out while I was out of the office is how prevalent supply chain and global trade is, or has become, in many conversations I am part of, (or may have unintentionally overheard).

For example, while at a beach where you can park on it, with a friend and his new Ford Bronco (remember to take a lot of air out of your tires), a few conversations came up with people checking out his ride. That makes sense, as it is a sharp-looking vehicle. And this is where the topic of the supply chain came in.

“I have one of these Bronco’s on order, but it is not going to arrive until 2021, due to supply chain issues related to the computer chip shortage,” a fellow beachgoer told us.

The freight nerd in me was about to go full “Cliff Clavin” and explain some of the factors driving these supply chain issues to him, but I was on vacation and swimming and reading made for better alternatives, no doubt.

But that is it in a nutshell, in that even if you go on a vacation, you really cannot take a vacation from the supply chain. It just does not work like that.

Besides, as mentioned before in this space, it really does seem like the only time supply chains garner any type of mainstream news attention is when things are not going well. It is fair to say that since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, that there has been a lot of “attention,” in that respect.

On a broad level, that is still being seen, with port congestion, tight truckload capacity, overloaded delivery networks, and, as seen in recent months, some retailers and carriers taking matters into their own hands and chartering container vessels to meet tight delivery deadlines, rebuild inventories, and get freight where it needs to be.

What’s more, just about everyone these days has a story about how supply chain issues have got them down. It could be the extended delayed delivery of a Peleton bike, dishwasher, car part, or just about any other object. But before complaining, it helps to take a breath and remember we are all dealing with the same issues, it is not just a few people.

Earlier this summer, for a brief period, it looked like the light was truly starting to shine and that we were fully coming out of the pandemic-driven tunnel. Now, with the Delta variant on the rise, those hopes have largely been muted, unfortunately, and that is not a good thing.

One day, all things Covid will be behind us, and the global supply chain will return to a more normal cadence, and maybe the biggest supply chain concern, for many, will be tariffs, as was the case prior to the pandemic. But, in the meantime, if someone tries to tell you it is the “supply chain’s fault” that your shipment order is late, don’t hesitate to explain to that person that were it not for a resilient supply chain, things would be in a far worse state right now. It is well past time for the supply chain to be viewed as anyone’s punching bag or a convenient excuse.

Newsroom Notes congratulates the global supply chain community for keeping the economy moving. Without your efforts, it is scary to imagine what the current outlook may be.

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About the Author

Jeff Berman's avatar
Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review and is a contributor to Robotics 24/7. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis.
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