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Reflections: Global supply chain has more kinks than my garden hose

Once upon a time if you needed something, you simply went to the store and bought it.

No fuss, no muss.

After all, America was the land of plenty. Store shelves were fully stocked.

Now some shelves are emptier than the souls of the damned. The only thing plentiful these days is frustration.

The global supply chain has morphed into the chain of fools.

Fortunately we have superficial pursuits to distract us. For instance, the global village still worships celebrities like tinsel deities. Even a withering global supply chain can’t dry up the smorgasbord of celebrity pap.

Otherwise there would be so much weeping and gnashing of teeth that dentists soon would fear shortages of dental implants.

Global supply chain bottlenecks are squeezing businesses big and small, not to mention putting consumers into straight jackets.

Apparently, an army of chiropractors may not be enough to iron out the major kinks affecting global trade. The levers of the global economy are grinding slower than a Russian novel.

Of course, COVID-19 is a major culprit in all this. Alas, there is no vaccine or pill available to readily fix this major problem. Get on the stick, Dr. Fauci.

Early in the year, the hope was that the bottlenecks that gummed up the global supply chain in 2020 triggered by the pandemic would be mostly cleared by now. They’ve actually only gotten worse — much worse — and evidence is mounting that the holiday season is at risk.

God, if there only were a real-life Santa Claus. He and his elves would work overtime to ensure the kids got their Christmas presents. And his reindeer wouldn’t be sidelined by transportation issues. Santa may be jolly, but the Fat Man knows how to crack the whip in a crisis.

Although it began with panic-buying and related hoarding at the pandemic’s onset, the empty-shelf phenomenon has blossomed like never before over the last year and a half thanks to complicated supply chain issues, including worker shortages and a lack of materials.

For instance, the shortage of rental cars — as well as used and new cars — isn’t expected to let up until at least next year.

In the case of rental cars, when travel decreased sharply in the spring of 2020, many companies generated cash by selling off a sizable portion of their fleets. They may have assumed that they could just buy more cars later, but when the time came cars weren’t available.

The main reason for that is a worldwide shortage of semiconductors, the chips used in automotive systems. The supply has been constrained by COVID-related plant closures in Asia where many of them are made. A darn shame that potato chips aren’t compatible with semiconductors.

At least the shortage of semiconductors isn’t affecting our bellies. But other items are. Certain types of pasta have been unavailable, and some are having trouble getting chicken wings.

I don’t know about you, but I think Americans will never recover if they can’t gorge themselves on wings while watching the next Super Bowl.

At times, it’s been hard to come by tacos, Nike sneakers, plumbing fixtures, construction materials, salad dressing and Gatorade.

So you can forget about getting someone to remodel your house right now. And please don’t do it yourself. You’ll get dehydrated if you don’t have enough Gatorade to replenish your electrolytes. Especially if you’re eating your salad dry.

Remote work and schooling have added to the demand for tech products. And as you know, Americans simply can’t survive without having themselves and their homes totally wired with tech products.

What’s often at the heart of the supply-chain issue is a labor issue. The California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach recently have had more than 70 container ships idling offshore — a maritime parking lot that is confusing the heck out of the sharks.

There aren’t enough dockworkers to unload their cargo or enough truck drivers to move it out of the ports. I guess oodles of dockworkers and truck drivers changed careers and became poets or philosophers or prophets.

Labor shortages are why so many things just seem to be in the wrong place — the prime symptom of a supply-chain squeeze.

The labor situation is no doubt related to COVID-19. A significant number of people who were laid off early in the pandemic because of closures haven’t gone back to work, even as more businesses reopen.

The factors cited include a fear of infection and an aversion to dealing with customers who are angry about policies, or the lack of them, requiring masks and proof of vaccination — a particular concern for restaurant workers who are also in short supply.

Some essential workers such as health aides and delivery drivers who were hit hard by the pandemic are reassessing their jobs. Others developed an aversion to work and grew content living off the government dole. Undoubtedly a nice gig if you can afford it.

No wonder America now is the land of plenty of empty shelves. And if matters get much worse, we’ll have to chop up all that empty shelving for firewood.


Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.


Source: Berkshire mont

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