At the end of the line : Manufacturers, retailers and consumers have all been plagued by chip shortages since the introduction of Covid-19 last year. These shortages are now compounded by shortages of products ranging from plastics to shipping containers used to move goods around the world. As a result, consumers who rely on online shopping for availability may lose their edge.
Many consumers have come to rely on the web to ensure that the products they want are available and delivered on time for holidays and other special occasions. Unfortunately for these consumers, this year’s online shopping experience may not offer the convenience, benefits, and savings they are generally accustomed to.
Since 2020, the global semiconductor shortage has severely affected the ability to consistently manufacture and purchase goods ranging from computer hardware to automobiles. Not to be outdone by 2020, 2021 introduced several additional factors that have further strained the already struggling global supply chain. It is no longer just a shortage of semiconductors; consumers are now battling pandemic variants as well as a shortage of skilled workers, plastics, containers to ship manufactured goods and even the ports needed to bring those goods to market.
At this point, the pandemic-related shortages and the availability of workers are hardly surprising to most. The other factors, however, continue to add up and exacerbate an already painful situation. Steel sea containers, for example, have themselves become a commodity. But it is their availability, not their quantity, that creates the problem. At the start of the pandemic, canceled trade routes contributed to the blockage and unavailability of containers. Today, continued demand to replenish stocks to pre-pandemic levels has resulted in increased container use.
While this usage appears to be a good thing, the increase in container usage is being hampered by previously blocked containers as well as the pursuit of 2021 shipping interruptions which frequently leave hundreds to thousands of stranded containers at sea. Some ships that reach their destination safely find themselves anchored with nowhere to unload their cargo due to the safeguard of sea and inland ports already operating at full capacity. The result? Goods and materials have no way to move from point A to point B, further straining an already crippled global supply chain.
Irregular weather conditions also impacted the availability of the supply chain. The raw materials needed for some plastic productions, such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and monoethylene (MEG), have been scarce since 2020. Chemical supplies have been further limited following the shutdown. this year’s ice storm on the Gulf Coast, which negatively impacted the world’s largest petrochemical complex, located in Texas. These chemicals are used to produce anything from consumer electronics to food packaging, and the impact of their lack of availability is still felt in several industries today.
Considering the number of factors impacting product availability and delivery, consumers are advised to plan ahead, order early, and be prepared with locally produced alternatives to their desired but unavailable products.
Image Credit: Online Shopping Image By Pete Linforth, freight containers by Alexandre kliem