As the holiday season approaches, you can expect that the weather will get colder for most of us above the equator. That means snow, ice, freezing rain, and subsequent delays on holiday orders. While the weather is always a concern as a manufacturer, three other looming problems may affect deliveries around the country and exporting to foreign markets this holiday season: COVID-19, transportation, and the global supply chain. All three are related, and we’re going to dive into why each may cause your customers to see more delays this year.
Why COVID-19 Could Still Cause More Delays
It seems like the whole year of 2020 is overshadowed by COVID-19. It’s constantly in the headlines, in every online discussion, and may be physically in your local community. The shutdowns of factories across the globe have caused delays of raw materials, components, and complete finished products. It started in the first quarter of the calendar year, but those delays have come and gone from then on. As the cold and flu season starts to typically start after Halloween, you may see an uptick in delays for materials and goods. COVID-19 may cause more employees to call out sick from work and more factories may slow down or close for a brief period. In the last week COVID-19 cases have dramatically increased in localized areas of the United States. We may see more delays to and from those areas as it affects the local population. The same trend is happening in many areas of the world, which means they may have the same delays for materials and goods.
Can Transportation Still Cause Freight Delays?
There is no doubt that the travel restrictions across the globe have affected transportation and shipping. The airline restrictions that were enacted in March 2020 reduced the ticketed passengers from 2.2 million down to less than 200,000. That’s a significant decrease in airline traffic, and that reduction of air travel caused major delays in not only passenger travel but also in package delivery. Many airlines carry passengers and cargo on their flights, so losing that mode of transportation caused delays in products and materials to be delivered.
While the airlines slowed down dramatically, and are still suffering from lingering effects of the shutdown, trucking hasn’t seen the same decline. When the travel restrictions were put in place in March 2020, the trucking industry only saw a reduction of ~10%. Some of that decline was due to the drivers not being able to travel, but also that deliveries and shipping were slowing down to factories and businesses needing materials and goods. Since that point in the year, more employees have worked from home, and thousands of smaller businesses have closed permanently, and the need of major trucking has slightly shifted as consumers by more products for home delivery than traveling to purchase goods and services from a retailer. That shopping change is causing major shipping companies to now carry individualized boxes instead of pallets of goods. Trucking is being overloaded with volume from a change in consumer habits.
Transportation doesn’t stop with just land and air shipping. There is still a global segment of shipping that happens over the oceans and seas. The large container ships that carry massive amounts of cargo were also halted or delayed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their normal volume of shipping is still varying month to month based on global closures, restrictions, and consumer buying trends requiring finished goods.
Shipping wasn’t the only transportation that has seen a decline in the last few months. Personal transportation has declined in new vehicle purchases as well as related industries to personal travel. Employees started to work from home temporarily, factories closed or delayed shipments due to lower consumer demand, and personal travel declined significantly as vacations over summer were halted. As we head into the holiday season, each shipment method is still seeing declines over previous years. Inside of each shipping method there are volume increases and decreases, which can cause delays in orders being shipped. The reduction in personal travel, and more importantly the change in consumer behavior, may cause overloads and delays as transportation recovers from the pandemic effects.
Has the Global Supply Chain Been Affected This Year?
The pandemic this year has affected more than just consumer buying habits and the method goods are being shipped. The global supply chain has found weaknesses and risks that weren’t visible before. Raw materials have been affected for on-time deliveries, and that initial delay has cascaded subsequent delays all year for production of finished goods. Many factories were relying on single sources for their materials, and when those sources were affected by delays and shutdowns, it caused further delays in production and deliveries. That has been a cycle seen over and over throughout 2020 as China first saw delays, then passed them on to their customers and their businesses. That trend in supply chain delays will continue as the holiday season approaches, which will delay orders.
Knowing that order delays may be a likely outcome this holiday season, it may seem hard to find solutions around them. Communication with your supply chain, both incoming material and outgoing logistics will be key to avoid delays and shutdowns in your business. Evaluate if any of your incoming materials have the potential to be stopped in-transit, and fins secondary options if there is a potential risk. If your operations could be slowed due to a reduction of workforce able to produce goods, make contingency plans to account for less people. And finally, if you can prevent shipping delays by using multiple transportation methods, have backup plans may be a good option. With forward planning for potential risks, you can avoid delays with holiday orders.
SEA-LECT Plastics is a turn-key supplier that can handle the intricate details of your business, and is a leader in plastic injection molding with options for assembly and logistics. We can aid with resin selection on a new product, offer turn-key assembly options, and program management to see the complete development cycle through with success. Give us a call at (425) 339-0288 or email us at email@example.com. We can offer you advice on the best technology to use, the best materials to meet your product demands, and how to navigate through each development stage. At SEA-LECT Plastics, we specialize in military product applications, outdoor adventure gear, musical instruments, supporting the medical and consumer product industries. Our goal is to make your project efficient and cost-effective to manufacture, assemble, and ship no matter how complicated your concept is.
Matthias Poischbeg was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Matt moved to Everett, Wash., after finishing his bachelor’s degree in business in 1995 to work for Sea-Dog Corporation, a manufacturer, and distributor of marine and rigging hardware established in 1923.
In 1999, Matt took over the reins at Sea-Lect Plastics Corporation, a sister company of Sea-Dog and a manufacturer of plastic injection molded products with an in-house tool & die shop. Matthias Poischbeg is also a contributor to Grit Daily.