Scores of cargo ships are anchored off major ports and products are piling up outside warehouse doors. Ongoing product shortages exasperate consumers — we’ve all been warned repeatedly that any holiday shopping we haven’t done yet may never happen at all. And experts say these issues are only going to worsen, even continuing into late 2022 and beyond.
To address the Great Supply Chain Disruption, President Biden on Wednesday announced that the Port of Los Angeles would begin operating 24/7, paralleling its sister port of Long Beach. In addition, retailers including FedEx, Home Depot, Target, UPS and Walmart have pledged to accelerate transport efforts by sending more drivers to ports and expanding hours for container clearing. The White House describes the effort as a “90-day sprint” to free a path for cargo.
“This is a good first step. Although, it is quite astonishing — and a measure of how severe this is — that it apparently takes the personal involvement of the president of the United States to get this obvious measure implemented,” Bjorn Vang Jensen, vice president of global supply chain at Denmark's Sea-Intelligence ApS, told The Wall Street Journal.
Bloomberg notes that the White House has been homing in on supply chain concerns since Biden took office. In February, he created a supply chain task force to coordinate policies and address key issues; a few months later, he signed an executive order to review supplies of critical goods, including semiconductors, high-capacity batteries, pharmaceuticals and minerals.
“But the U.S. supply chain is largely in the hands of businesses, limiting the administration’s options to directly influence it,” the article continues.
As Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said: “This is a set of private-sector systems — a global one at that. But we have a role to play as an honest broker, bringing together different players who, sometimes surprisingly, don’t always coordinate with one another.”
Essential workforce training
In interviews with several media outlets this week, ASCM Executive Vice President of Strategy and Alliances Douglas Kent, SCOR-P, explained that, while the White House spotlight on the issue is greatly appreciated, it doesn’t entirely address or fix all of the congestion issues: “As we saw in Long Beach, increasing hours only does so much, as it’s a highly complex process. We already have a backlog of ships arriving, and after the ships arrive, we need orchestration across multiple modes of transport to maintain a consistent flow of goods. With all of these capacity constraints, simply extending operating hours does not solve the ongoing disruption; we need a major effort to train workers to take on these supply chain roles.”
Indeed, supply chain challenges are global challenges, and increasing operating hours doesn’t magically conjure the hundreds of thousands of skilled employees needed to work those shifts. Rather, professionals at every point in supply chain are likely to continue the search for quality talent for many years to come.
The Talent, Leadership and Culture learning path at the ASCM CONNECT Annual Conference will explore this and many other supply chain labor issues. Attend the educational session Building Superior Supply Chain Talent, which highlights how real-world leaders are cultivating the next generation of supply chain professionals. You will come away with proven strategies for successfully developing agile and informed workers. Then, be a part of the Leadership and Talent Connection Café workshop with colleagues from around the world. Together, you will explore a deliberate and thoughtful approach to the labor shortage.
The all-virtual event is October 25-27. Register today.