Breaking the Chain
As government-imposed shut-downs have helped accelerate the long-coming ecommerce boom, certain restrictions have made online shopping wait-times longer. These same restrictions have similarly affected business-to-business transactions, and the era of the global supply chain more generally.
The Cost of Restrictions
As consumers and businesses accelerate their purchasing to meet demand, the Port of Los Angeles is less equipped to handle the increase in volume. As of February 23rd, the Port of LA is seeing a year-over-year increase in import volume of 294.94% (The Signal – LA). Volume reached 169,602 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) the week of February 21st. It is expected to reach 174,500 TEUs by the week of March 7th.
California state and municipal restrictions on the amount of workers in a given area at any one time have increased the amount of time it takes for a ship to be unloaded, its contents delivered to a warehouse, and subsequently sorted and reorganized for further distribution. Ships are forced to anchor at harbor as crews wait their turn to unload; incurring further costs and lengthening delays. According to the same report, eighteen container vessels were at anchor, with an average time at anchor of 7.8 days. There are fifteen additional ships expected to anchor between February 23rd and 27th.
Many of the goods that come into the country on the west coast go on to various hubs around the nation for the next leg of distribution. Dallas/Fort Worth is one of these major hubs. The recent inclement weather in this area has further complicated supply chains and distribution flow. Last week, Union Pacific shut down all intermodal gates impacted by the weather (SupplyChainDive). BNSF issued a notification to customers indicating extended delays throughout Texas and the Gulf region. Power outages left more than four million residents and thousands of businesses in the dark; grinding one of America’s most important logistic centers to a halt.
The uncooperative weather was unfortunate, but is not a sustainable problem for the logistics industry. On the other side, the global supply chain is delicate even under the best conditions, let alone when government imposes labor restrictions. The fragility of supply chains is an issue for business owners and strategists to solve for decades to come.