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ASCM Insights

Air Conditioning Supply Chains Feel the Heat


The world is experiencing some tragic indicators of climate change. An unprecedented amount of rainfall has caused catastrophic flooding in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, leaving about 200 people dead, many more missing or displaced from their homes, and tens of thousands without access to power or drinking water. Greenpeace East Asia predicts that several regional cities will suffer a similar fate within the decade. On the other end of the spectrum, Madagascar is facing its worst drought in four decades, which has led to the world’s first-ever climate-change-induced famine.

Here in North America, residents are dealing with multiple deadly heat waves. Canada reached temperatures never before seen — some as high as 121 degrees Fahrenheit — causing the deaths of more than 100 people in Vancouver alone. Boise, Idaho, had temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 straight days. Las Vegas hit an all-time high of 117 degrees Fahrenheit a couple of weeks ago.

Unfortunately, many people are unable to find relief due to the scarcity of air-conditioning units, parts and laborers. Steve Seitz, vice president of sales at Blanton’s Air, Plumbing and Electric in Fayetteville, North Carolina, told ABC 11 News the root causes of the problem are copper and steel shortages. Others in the industry blame the talent gap, an inability to obtain parts from other countries and COVID-19 outbreaks at manufacturing facilities.

Of course, with so many normally temperate areas suddenly in need of air conditioning, demand is spiking. “On Monday, there were four-hour waits to get into our store,” Norman Chusid, owner of Portland’s Ankeny Hardware, told The Weather Channel. “All the big box stores in the area and all the hardware stores and variety stores were sending everybody here.” In three days, Ankeny Hardware did nearly three months’ worth of business.

In addition, employees returning to offices after the pandemic are receiving a warm welcome — but not the kind their companies intended.  Commercial heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems are failing after sitting idle during the pandemic, heightening demand for components.

It’s important to note that these regional surges are relatively small compared to the amount of additional cooling equipment that will be needed in the years ahead. As global temperatures continue to rise, the International Energy Agency predicts the number of air-conditioning units will increase 66% by 2030, up from the roughly 2 billion units in operation worldwide today.  

Stay cool, think green

Supply chains are in jeopardy but, more importantly, lives are at stake. In numerous countries, extreme heat is the deadliest weather hazard. A leaked draft report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that hunger, drought and disease will affect millions of people worldwide within just the next few generations. It’s vital for supply chain organizations to examine and improve the environmental sustainability of their operations.

“All of this disruption has been a critical wake-up call for supply chain professionals. It’s unfortunate that a global disaster was required for us to get here, but we now have a precious opportunity to emerge better than we were before,” ASCM Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Rennie writes in SCM Now magazine. “As the spotlight shines on our industry, the entire world is beginning to understand the impact of supply chains on their lives. Hopefully, businesses will take this opportunity to review their key focus areas and, ultimately, choose to prioritize people and the planet.”

The latest issue of this award-winning resource is live, featuring real-world insights, strategies and ideas from supply chain experts and ASCM leaders. Don’t miss out on this trusted and informative ASCM member benefit.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted through

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