The World Supply Chain is in Crisis – Why, How, and “Now What?”

Supply Chain Blog

Remember when we took the world supply chain for granted? For years we bought and sold things from distant lands, not worrying much about how these products get to us or to our customers. But times have changed.

The global COVID pandemic caused havoc with the world supply chain in several ways. With thousands of employees missing work due to illness, and with whole businesses frozen as they struggled to implement social distancing rules, shipments experienced delays lasting weeks. Some items took months to get to us. And the effects of the pandemic are still felt today.

In June of 2021, the White House published an article titled “Why the Pandemic Has Disrupted Supply Chains.” 

In July of 2021, the container ship Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal, causing a traffic jam that affected retailers of cars, clothes and many other industries. And just last August this happened again, when the Affinity V got stuck not too far from the location of the previous incident.

This year the world supply chain has been challenged by Russia’s war in Ukraine, and shifting alliances around the world. Items that might have been easily shipped for decades became scarce, delayed, or altogether unavailable.

This has changed the way the world thinks of supply chains. First of all, key executives are not conscious and sensitive of this issue, and make corporate decisions around it. Secondly, whole industries conditioned for decades to optimize to the minute by leveraging JIT (just-in-time) practices are moving away from that model. And many businesses that had cut costs by finding a particular supplier, and were able to offer a uniquely-low price, have been forced to rethink their approach as suppliers are no longer guaranteed, and backup suppliers become the norm. 

The way we communicate with our customers has changed too. We started seeing shipping predictions change on ecommerce websites, from the familiar two-week window to three, sometimes four weeks. We started seeing language on landing pages adjusting customer expectations and asking for patience. Ecommerce stores have had to reinforce their customer support, and devote hours to logistics troubleshooting.

We just published a guide that explains the world supply chain, explains the world supply chain crisis and offers solutions and best practices for ecommerce merchants. If you sell physical goods online, or if you sell services that can be impacted by availability of supplies, we strongly encourage you to download it and give it a read.

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