Commentary: Consumers are getting a window into ‘logistics’ challenges

Commentary: Consumers are getting a window into ‘logistics’ challenges

Transportation and logistics issues used to be solely be the concern of manufacturers, shippers, carriers and retailers. Now consumers have an increased awareness of how supply chain disruptions can impact their everyday lives.

The pandemic accelerated a broader understanding and appreciation of the connectivity of our world, for better and for worse. We all knew weather, labor strikes and pricing fluctuations affected trade, but now it was something entirely different. Things that used to just show up when and where we wanted them to now weren’t as easily available.

Consumer demand shifted dramatically from purchasing services to buying products. Trillions of dollars’ worth of inventory was depleted at the same time that global production was slowed or shut down.

A good example is the well-publicized effect this had on the automotive industry. It’s not just the lack of semiconductor chips, but parts and components across the entire build process. Prices have increased while availability has decreased, resulting in sparsely stocked dealer sales lots.

Online e-commerce became the buyers’ platform of choice as in-person store foot traffic slowed. That quickly tapped existing resources and led to panic buying of certain commodities, most infamously of course, toilet paper. Shortages led to frustration and more critically for many, food insecurity. The federal government responded with stimulus payments to businesses and individuals to keep the economy afloat.

Exacerbating the difficulties faced by employers looking for help to move products was the availability of unemployment benefits. Those extra payments, while well intended, kept many out of the workforce for an extended period. Even though those benefits recently ended, a good many of the continuing woes across the supply chain are still labor related.

With production slowly coming back online, ongoing labor shortages have resulted in a lack of port capacity. There are fewer dockworkers to unload freight, fewer truck drivers to move it and fewer distribution and warehouse workers to pick and pack it. There are also fewer delivery drivers to take it the final mile, to the consumer’s home or business.

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