Thursday, October 14, 2021

Supply Chain

When I was growing up, the supply chain consisted of people making things, storing them in warehouses until they were ordered, then sending them out as stores needed them. This is a VAST simplification, but it covers the overall attitude - make stuff, store stuff, send stuff, sell stuff.

With modern infrastructure, the supply chain was tightened up. Because stuff being stored in a warehouse results in loss of profit (you have to pay for storing stuff instead of making money on it!) companies started to cut out warehouses by making things as they were needed instead of storing it wherever possible. This saved a lot of money, but it also meant that any disruption - at all - in the supply chain would result in people not able to buy products. Or worse, in companies along the supply chain not having the raw materials to make products.

A global pandemic is very disrupting.

The supply chain is ALL fouled up. There are slow spots in virtually every area. Some products aren't getting to where they need to be and some raw materials are just plain not coming to manufacturers.

This has led to all kinds of spotty shortages. And those shortages won't end soon. They will be popping up everywhere and in every industry.

Here's what you, as a consumer, ought to do.

  • Don't panic buy.
  • When you find stuff you need, buy enough to last a reasonable amount of time.
  • Plan ahead. Start looking for stuff you need BEFORE you need it badly. If you are down to a week's supply of something, go out and get a bit more, for example. Always stay stocked up to last a reasonable amount of time if there are shortages.
  • Be nice to the workers. They are not responsible for the shortages. They are as much victims as you of the corporate attitude of profits over people. If you harass employees and workers you are less likely to get help the next time you need it.
  • Be patient. While the supply chain is fragile, it hasn't yet completely broken down. If you make sure you have a small supply of necessities, you should be fine.

The biggest takeaway is to not make the problem worse. Panic buying, throwing temper tantrums at hapless employees, and waiting until the last minute to buy necessities will all contribute to the problem, so just don't do them.