OPINION: The reality of supply chain struggles


I hear you. I hear you complaining about the supply chain and how rough it is  due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  I see the comments some people  make to  stores when their favorite products are unavailable. Sometimes I wonder how many people understand how the supply chain for any given product works. Therefore, there is a process on how the supply chain around the world works.  

Disclaimer for my sanity: I am simply minoring in Supply Chain Management.Wichita State University  does not offer a Major in Supply Chain Management, but they do currently offer a minor and master’s emphasis area.

To explain the supply chain I am going to use something that most people buy, bread. In order for  bread to be made a farmer must plant wheat. t The  wheat must  then be harvested, transported and sold to the grain elevator by the farmer. Next, the wheat must be ground by a mill into flour and transported by semi-truck or railcar to a commercial bakery where the bread is baked and packaged, before being transported to stores. 

Bread is a product that does not first go to a warehouse, bread must go straight to stores because of its nature. Because of this, there is more of an emphasis on the logistics and  operations management side of bread.

The store does not control the logistics portion of a product, nor do they control anything beyond the labor and what order product gets put on the shelf once the truck arrives at the dock. 

I cannot tell you how many times that I have walked into work and talked to the guys in produce- only to find out that the perishable truck out of Hutchinson was late, and either wasn’t going to be in until after noon. Also,  they had no idea if the truck  was coming in that day  because they either hadn’t loaded the trailer, didn’t have a driver, or both.

 I know this is difficult and I don’t appreciate the price increases and products being unavailable for weeks on end. There isn’t much more that I can do than show up to work for my co-workers and provide the best solutions available

There is no one perfect solution to this supply chain crisis. We will eventually get to a place where we can say that we lived through both ‘the great resignation’ and the worst supply chain and logistics crisis of all time.. According to Logistics Management, shipping times from China to the US increased by 17%, going from 85 days to a flat 100 days. Add port waiting times, which at the Port of Long Beach sits at 38-45 days and then an unknown amount of time waiting for ground transportation to the final destination. 

Rather than complaining, everyone needs to be flexible and responsive to change.