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Supply Chain Issues Expected To Continue With Labor Shortage

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Supply Chain Issues Expected To Continue With Labor Shortage

Supply chain issues caused by the pandemic are not expected to be resolved any time soon.

That is according to MTSU Supply Chain Management Professor Dr. Kimball Bullington. Bullington said the Delta Variant is spreading and supply chain infrastructure relies on a network of interstate trucking, that is 200,000 drivers short.

“There’s really not any silver bullet on the horizon,” Bullington said. “We’re working long term on self-driving trucks, caravaning trucks, maybe using slightly larger trailers in some cases.”

Bullington said there is a manpower crisis across the nation. He said labor not coming back even after stimulus checks were cited as reasons people were not working.

Bullington said that microchips are a high priority to get back in supply, but it is not an easy fix compared to other items in short supply.

“If you’re not set up to make a particular a chip, a certain dye then it’s not like you can just go over to anybody making any kind of electronic and suddenly bring them up to speed on that. So I think there’s going to be some continued pain for awhile on the chip side. It’s not an easy solution.”

Bullington said the supply chain reached this point in part by using real time supply. He said that while it does keep costs down, company’s use the system to only produce what people want, produce higher quality products and discover defective products quicker.

“It removed some of the buffer,” Bullingston said. “So when you did have problems, you saw them quicker and were stressed more. There’s a good side to what we did in terms of exposing problems and addressing them. If you’re in a crunch, if anyone believes that they’re going to be in a crunch one of the first steps they take is actually increase inventory to prepare for that. We were caught at a time where we did not have a lot of inventory in the system.”

Bullington said he expects real time supply to continue, with higher levels of safety stock. He said demand will still dictate production, but expects buyers to stop relying on only one supplier.

“I don’t think we’re going to get caught in quite as big of a surprise as we did in 2020,” Bullington said. “I don’t expect widespread shelf shortages. You may have some, but I don’t expect to see the ones we had before in the near future. One of the responses that we had originally to the virus was that we reduce the variety of what we sell. For instance if you were making toilet, you were only producing certain sizes of toilet paper packaging rather than every imaginable size. We stream lined and were able to produce more.”

Bullington said the original shortages started in 2019 because the United States gets a lot of supplies from in and around Wuhan, China. He said factory workers were sick and unable to work to supply imports.


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