From raw material to supplier, manufacturer, distributor, then retailer and finally to consumer, manufacturing companies are familiar with the ebb and flow of logistics and demand around which the supply chain revolves.
However, current issues are widespread at national and international levels. They are convoluted by things such as weather, an influx in demand, a challenging labor environment, chassis shortages, ocean port disturbances and congestion, and highly fragmented U.S. truckload capacities, to name a few. The average consumer first witnesses it at the grocery store by consistently empty shelves and unavailability of essential products.
Behind the scenes, Michigan manufacturing companies witness the side effects of the issues that inundate the supply chain; however, they are learning to navigate them through innovation and improvisation. Capital Area Manufacturing Council Executive Director Cindy Kangas said that the area’s manufacturers remain optimistic and solution-focused.
Each component — resources, transportation, warehouse capacity, workforce — is a link in the chain; therefore, the entire chain takes a hit when one link breaks. Kangas said the links extend from product packaging and trucking; availability of machinery and materials such as plastic, wood, and metal; machinery microchips; storage solutions to keep goods fresh while they wait out transportation delays; and, of course, manpower.
Local manufacturers keep resources on hand and assist each other when possible.
“They’re knocking down walls and expanding if they have the manpower,” Kangas said, adding that local manufacturers are obtaining resources and goods from within the United States more frequently to avoid the challenges of overseas commerce.
Steve Raetz, director of research and market intelligence at C.H. Robinson C.H. Robinson, advises the Capital Area Manufacturing Council. He encouraged manufacturing companies to be open, build strong relationships, be prepared to utilize alternative options and understand market dynamics.
According to Raetz, finding new ways to sustain and bring on new business and diversifying talent acquisition and retention strategies are critical components to navigating today’s complex market.
“Planning and adaptability are required, not optional,” he said.
Raetz posits the eventual, albeit a gradual, market improvement over the next couple of years. Kangas agreed, citing that — while future disruptors exist, including the Chinese New Year, Winter Olympics and expiration of union labor contracts — there is room for optimism for manufacturing companies as they learn valuable insights into the supply chain and how to navigate a compromised market.