The broken global supply chain is forcing companies to scramble for goods, especially with holiday shopping going on. But there are no easy solutions. Almost every link in the chain is broken, from plant closures in China to a lack of truck drivers in the United States.
“Bottlenecks are literally everywhere,” said Brian Glick, founder of Chain.io, a Philadelphia-based company. supply chain technology provider. “There is no shortcut.”
Philly shoppers are still expected to spend more this holiday season than last year despite supply chain issues, according to Deloitte. But the problems could persist until next year and possibly 2023, said Dan Hearsch, chief executive of the New York-based consulting firm. Alix Partners. And supply chain disruptions are likely to lead to lasting change. Many companies will keep their suppliers closer to home and want them to have a supply of finished products, Hearsch said.
“They will require or at least allow suppliers throughout the supply chain to have more safety stock, more inventory, more finished products,” he said. “So when something like this happens again, the impact won’t be that bad. “
In the meantime, businesses in the Philadelphia area are trying out short-term solutions. Here’s how a few companies are adjusting to supply chain challenges, from storing shingles to teaching buyers how to cut chickens.
READ MORE: How Some Philly Area Businesses Solve Their Supply Chain Crisis
Pop! Promotions manufactures socks, sunglasses and other branded items that customers donate at trade shows or NFL games. Although the manufacturer of promotional items is based in Philadelphia, the company manufactures its products in India and China.
China’s electricity shortage has closed factories where these products are assembled, said Sterling Wilson, the Pop! President of promotions. The company therefore made an effort to move its manufacturing to factories where the lights are always on.
For example, Pop! Promos partners with several suppliers to manufacture sunglasses, one factory making lenses and another making frame hinges. In the past, Pop! Promotions separated these suppliers to reduce costs. But the company has decided to connect its partners so that they can set up additional assembly lines in their respective facilities.
“Now our sunglasses factory in one region uses the factory lens supplier in another region because they are turned on and off at different times in their existing factories,” Wilson said.
Power outages aren’t the only obstacle. Pop! Promos is one of the many companies whose products are stuck on a freighter. An order for 3,000 socks for a healthcare customer shipped three months ago, but was still off Long Beach, Calif., Last week, Wilson said. There is no estimated time of arrival.
To avoid congestion at seaports, the company is now shipping more goods by air. Unfortunately, the cost of putting products on an airplane is 10 to 20 times higher than using a boat, Wilson said.
Some customers are picky about their shingle colors, which is a problem for Roofing, construction and renovation by Bachman.
Shingle makers have stopped making some sought-after colors, such as the greyish-greenish slate or the popular Williamsburg slate, which is gray with red tones, said Bachman chief operating officer Carl Rost.
“Forget about hunter green, which is a solid green color,” he said. “They’re not going to do them for probably a year or two.”
Anticipating the shingle shortage, the Wernersville, Berks County-based company stocked popular colors, buying them wholesale across the country. The company went into manufacturing a rare color, for example when orange and brown colored hickory briefly hit the market. But shingle makers have been notified, Rost said. They now require purchase order numbers from customers to prevent wholesale purchases.
Mounds of shingles occupied valuable real estate in Bachman’s lumberyard. Now they are decreasing. Bachman’s recently ran out of Williamsburg slate. While some customers are happy to order similar colors, others insist on specific shades, Rost said.
“We will go into homeowners associations where they are very specific about what they can use outside of their condos,” Rost said. “One of them was a Williamsburg slate, and that’s all we can put in it. It’s in their statutes.
Certain shades of shingles aren’t the only hard thing to find. The company searched everywhere for the screws and plates it needed for the installation, including on social media. Bachman bought it from someone on Facebook, Rost said.
READ MORE: Fed survey reveals economy faces supply chain, other bottlenecks
Few months ago, Riverwards Fruit and Vegetable Market couldn’t get boneless, skinless chicken breasts due to supply chain issues. However, the specialty grocer had plenty of whole chickens, so CEO Vincent Finazzo advised a customer to either prepare one or cut the spine open and flatten it.
The advice wasn’t just a solution to the chicken breast shortage. This helped the client to get more meals from the bird in a cost effective manner. She then messaged the grocery store on Instagram thanking Finazzo for the tip.
Lately, Finazzo had to make other recommendations, like suggesting coconut coffee cream for some recipes when coconut milk was out of stock. Perhaps experimenting with new foods is a silver lining to supply chain shortages, Finazzo said.
“People should be open to trying different things,” he said. “You might not be able to get that cheese or that cut of meat or that specific item. But maybe it’s your cue or try something new.
Riverwards just ordered 7,200 paper bags, 10 times more than normal, he said. That’s because the cost of paper bags has jumped both with supply chain issues and higher demand in Philadelphia, which recently banned plastic bags. The specialist grocer does not make money from the paper bags he gives to customers, so he saves money by buying them in large volumes.
And just as buyers hand-pick produce from the Fishtown store, Finazzo and his team carefully select vendor fruit to ensure high quality. Citrus, in particular, did not fare well as supply chain bottlenecks lengthen the journey to Philly.
“We open every box. We smell, we taste, we inspect, ”said Finazzo. “So most of these products don’t make it into the store. “