12/04/2021 by Bill's Bedding 0 Comments
Where's my STUFF?
Trying to summarize the issues impacting our furniture and bedding orders at the moment.
Since the pandemic hit last March, concerns over the repercussions that were to come were only thought to be temporary until the vaccines started to roll out. There are now quite a few unforeseen circumstances that have combined to form quite the perfect storm of instability whereas we can no longer do any fortune telling to give an accurate time table to our customer in regards to shipping of their orders. This, of course, is not what any consumer wants to hear (or expect).
In over 25 years in this industry (over 40 for my Father and Uncle) we can not seem to get over the obstacles that are causing such unbelievable waves throughout our industry. And it is not just our industry. Appliances, pools, construction materials, replacement windows, spas and so much more are quoting a 8-12 month waiting period due to lack of materials. We have people tell us every day about delays in orders for different items that in a million years should never have shortages-but they do now. A lot of our customers are so very tired about hearing the Covid-19 excuse but I can tell you right now it is such a driving factor as to why so many issues are cropping up and spiraling into major complications. So I’ve decided instead of listing them in the order of importance, I am going to just list them and then you, the reader, can decide:
California Port Delay
Seems like quite a few issues, huh? Taking a look at the list and most will ask what came first- the chicken or the egg scenario- but to each their own these issues have procured into a combined (and unavoidable) trainwreck.
Is it all doom and gloom? Nah, of course not.
If you are looking at investing in your home, and are willing to wait the extended time frame for ordering custom furniture, by all means let’s take this ride together! Plenty of patience is needed to enter the ride, and knowledge that there is just no way we can be exact on final ship dates is needed to continue the ride.
Knowledge is what this blog is supposed to help with, so I will summarize the above list to give you the reader some information on how this is affecting the furniture and bedding industry.
Covid-19: I think a worldwide pandemic is enough of an explanation, but here are a few issues this has caused your neighborhood furniture store:
Factories and production shut down or slowed down due to minimum staffing and of course individual state mandates and shut downs this hampered any production from start to finish. And not just in the United States but in China-still our largest importer and exporter of goods.
Right now, because of social distancing, most factories are still only working at about 30% staffing in production. Orders for furniture and bedding have gone up exponentially in the last year but the reduction in Labor (i.e. Labor Shortage) have caused a backup at these factories. Also random shut downs due to Covid outbreaks have made it difficult to keep a steady pace.
Currently due to Covid restrictions and outbreaks, there is a huge truck driver shortage. This is an in demand job that could use a push in the right direction-maybe funding for schooling for want to be drivers? Just a thought. Without these worker bees you won’t see a finished product able to get from factory to factory to brick and mortar stores in a quick amount of time. And with Covid still out and about without making vaccines more available soon they still are getting sick.
Labor Shortage: Touched upon above, there are still many people out of work. Their jobs are not reopening right away due to social distancing restrictions. And these are not just regular workers- this is skilled labor- upholsters, frame builders, factory workers that can do this job with their eyes closed. A lot of these factories are adding on shifts now to make up the difference in loss of time so there are plenty of jobs opening for people to be able to learn new skills- but is it everywhere? No.
Foam Shortage: Or in another new phrase we have learned “Force Majeur” . Dow Chemical and other companies that supply foam producers chemicals to make foam have now declared this because they cannot meet their contractual obligations (Furniture Today March 22, 2021). As businesses shut down, chemical suppliers slowed operation rate. When they started to ramp up again, mechanical failures depleted inventories because the demand out stretched supply.
And then there were hurricanes in Louisiana and the deep freeze in Texas.
TDI (toluene diisocynate) and polyol are two main ingredients of foam, and the Gulf Coast is a major area for these chemicals to be produced- TDI however is only made at two plants (Louisiana and Texas) in the entire US but polyol is produced in other areas besides the Gulf Coast. When the deep freeze hit Texas, the plants that make TDI shut down due to freezing and are still not up and running. And now the polyol inventory is depleted. So now we have to wait until the Texas factories can come back online hopefully soon and without issues. Is there a timeline? No.
This affects not only the furniture industry but carpet, sealants, adhesives and many other items
California Port Delay: The Port of LA and the Port of Long Beach carry 1/2 of all imports from Asia. Due to a labor shortage (Covid exasperated that) there are over 60+ container ships floating in the Pacific outside those ports. Looking up how many containers on a ship (thank you google) that can be about 21,413 20ft containers per ship. That’s a lot of floating imports in those waters right now.
Now, because there are a lot of containers built up in China (due to backlog due to Covid), these containers are being shipped back empty to China instead of being loaded with our exports, which is causing a deficit there for our goods, and a huge backup of our goods at the docks. And because the turnaround for empty shipping containers is happening, there is a shipping container shortage elsewhere. They can’t be made fast enough.
Limited availability of dockworkers to unload containers and load them. Then the truck drivers. Yet again the shortage of special drivers to drive the trucks that carry the containers overland are severely limited. I can’t make this up.
I could throw in the Suez Canal debacle but that maybe too much.
We could really need chemists to open a polyol plant or too. And a TDI plant or two. And more drivers, more workers. But at this point the best we have is patience and knowledge. And our fingers crossed.