It was just a decade or so ago that...a devastating tsunami swamped Fukushima, Japan and threw global trade into massive disruption. In the aftermath of this "act of God", the tenuousness of globe-spanning supply chains were revealed in their terrifying fragility. The "re-shoring" movement gained considerable momentum as companies around the world looked for ways to source from more local partners.
It was just a year or so ago that...
a devastating virus emerged globally, throwing entire economies into utter disarray and revealing, yet again, that nearly everything we take for granted, including the most mundane of things--groceries, toilet paper, seeing friends and family-- can be swept away without warning by an unimaginable force.
And, it was just a week or so ago that...
the world's largest ship ran aground in one of the world's busiest waterways, further snarling global trade to the tune of billions of dollars each day.
Everyone in manufacturing has, experienced consequences from these events. The effects of the tsunami have muted over the years, but the realization remains that global shipping is still a fraught business. In the last year, ports all over the world have struggled with virus-related workforce outages that have delayed vessel ladings by weeks. Although the ship grounding is a tiny "wrench in the works", by comparison, it still demonstrates that even relatively small disruptions can have outsize effects.
We're among the thousands of "goes-into" businesses. We make (precision metal) stuff that goes into something else and something else and something else until it eventually becomes a "thing", like a jet engine or a ventilator or an MRI machine.
In the past year, throughout our supply chain and our customer base, there has never been more uncertainty. Customers are reluctant to make longer term commitments, which means that producers like us are less likely to make larger raw material buys, which means that the distributors are reluctant to restock depleted inventories, which means the mills don't have enough reliable demand to make the size runs they used to. Which means that lead times extend, prices increase and life gets a bit tougher all around.
We all need to buck up our confidence now that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. Businesses will recover, and customers will still need the goods and services we provide. We're focused on getting ahead of the curve as much as we can today by keeping abreast of supply side conditions.
We're happy to share our insights. Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.
We hope that you will take a moment to look forward and consider what you can do to be part of the recovery, as well.