/Those ‘supply chain issues’

Those ‘supply chain issues’

By Jim Poling Sr.
From Shaman’s Rock

It’s enough to drive a person to drink – if you can find anything to drink.

Ontario’s liquor board is the latest to announce that “supply chain issues” may result in some shortages this Christmas season.

Supply chain issues should get the Phrase of the Year Award. It is being used for shortages of everything from auto parts to toilet paper.

Toilet paper you can do without. There’s Kleenex, paper napkins, even leaves, if necessary. Anything reasonably soft can be a substitute.

Auto parts are a different story. If there are “supply chain issues” with auto parts, cars and trucks don’t run. In fact, some cars and trucks don’t get built. 

Evidence of that is found in scantily-stocked new vehicle lots. Some folks report having to compromise on the colours and options of vehicles they planned to buy.

Parts are a problem, as I have discovered. 

I bought a new Toyota SUV at the beginning of July. I ordered it with a trailer hitch, bug screen and roof rack crossbars. 

The bug screen and crossbars came in a month or two after I got the car. The hitch arrived sometime in early fall as I was getting itchy about pulling my boat out of the water.

The trailer hitch wiring harness still has not arrived, almost six months after buying the car. Any towing I do is without lights. I’m told that is legal during the day, but I’m not sure about that.

The hitches and wiring harnesses used by many vehicle manufacturers come from Curt Manufacturing in the U.S. I could have got one from them months ago but Toyota would have nulled my vehicle warranty because the Curt hitch and wiring harness would not have Toyota labelling and was not put on by Toyota.

I continue to wait, one of millions of victims of “supply chain issues.”

A trailer wiring shortage is minor compared to shortages of medical gear. Face masks, shields and other protective equipment are still in short supply in many places.

The pandemic has been blamed for continuing shortages. The most accepted story is that when the pandemic hit, factories shut down or reduced production because so many workers were ill or locked down.

Shipping companies then reduced their schedules because there were fewer goods to ship. This proved to be a poor decision because people around the world began working from home and buying home-office goods like printers, office chairs, video consoles.

Others with more time at home ordered renovating products such as paint and lumber. More cooking was done at home so there was a surge in demand for kitchen goods.

The spikes in demand created shortages. Prices of things that we could get increased.

That’s the commonly told story. There’s more to it than that.

To begin with, the pandemic began at a time of lean inventories. Goods were not overly abundant because companies had decided that reducing spending on building inventory increased profits. 

Secondly, a major part of the problem is that we rely too much on China for things we need. Canadian imports from China are estimated to be $75 to $80 billion a year. A Canadian company might make a terrific computer you want but cannot finish building it without a chip from China. 

We need to depend on ourselves more and use our own resources and people to make the things we need. Our federal government should think about that when negotiating trade agreements.

Meanwhile, shortages are not expected to end soon. Predictions are that there will be “supply chain issues” well into 2022, perhaps even longer.

We all will witness shortages this Christmas season, and not just at the liquor store. Several talent agencies have been reporting shortages of Santas for Christmas parties and shopping mall appearances.

Missing Santas are just one part of our nationwide worker shortage. A Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) study has found that more than one-half of small businesses do not have the staff required to run their stores.

Statistics Canada data shows more than one million job openings in September, 200,000 in the accommodation and food sectors and 131,000 in health care and social assistance services.