Don’t Let Supply Chain Challenges Hold You Hostage
In January 2021, we began feeling the pinch associated with increased product costs and availability issues on everything from copy paper and office furniture to fleet vehicles and fertilizer. Initially, it created significant angst and frustration as we tried to make sense of it all. We were told these “novel” supply chain frustrations would begin working themselves out by early summer.
Here we are over a year later and product availability continues to affect our businesses and prices continue to skyrocket. In some cases, products just aren’t available. A 6- to 12-month wait on big-ticket items has become the norm.
And, as if matters weren’t bad enough, labor shortages have created even more angst. Whether you’re trying to order items online or trying to keep your clients happy as you ask your skeletal crew to do more, there seems to be no end in sight.
As the U.S. economy rebounds from almost two years of pandemic shutdown, manufacturers, distribution companies and logistic providers are having a difficult time keeping up. Seaports remain clogged with goods, but getting product from Point A to Point B has become a nightmare and very expensive. Ask anyone who’s buying or selling. That would be all of us!
Dockworker shortages and an anemic transportation system hobbled by not enough truck drivers are creating a bottleneck. This is slowing down product movement to wholesale distributors and retailers. Recent global turmoil has also driven up the cost of fuel overnight. The cost of diesel fuel, the nectar that drives our economy, is skyrocketing adding more pain to logistics.
As a friend of mine says, “Some days chicken salad. Some days chicken doo-doo” [she actually used a more colorful descriptor here]. So, what then can we do-do?
There are ways you can manage challenges associated with supply chain issues. Some of these suggestions may fall into the commonsense category but bear with me.
- Focus on managing those things in which you have control. Some things simply are not, like what you pay for something or how long you need to wait before receiving a product or service you purchased. Connect with a supplier you can trust. Work with those who under-promise and over-deliver rather than the other way around.
- Look for alternative ways of doing things. We are all creatures of habit. Now is not the time to get stuck in a comfortable routine. Look for creative ways of doing things or alternative products that are easier, quicker to get and maybe cheaper to use. And remember, sometimes products that cost more will save you money somewhere else. Don’t get stuck on price. Taking these steps may not be your first choice, but they may bridge the gap as you wait for relief.
- Look for ways to save labor. Consider outsourcing some services if possible. You may discover a new business partner in doing so.
- Plan ahead! Don’t wait until the last minute to purchase consumables and other products you need to run your business. We have all been lulled into “just-in-time” thinking. We purchase something on Monday and expect to have it on Wednesday.
- Look at what you need 8 to 10 weeks from now and plan those purchases now.
- Most of us make a living in the Green Industry. Start taking Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices more seriously. Embrace cultural practices that will promote plant health. This will reduce inputs and will not compromise results or expectations. Focus your efforts on sustainability. Look for ways you can save inputs like water, fertilizer, and herbicides. And time and labor.
- Consider using new technology found in products featuring EC Grow’s EPEC Polymer-Coated Urea. Smart fertilizers like those found in the Labor Efficient Program, Simpl1fyPro and CAD will help you save money, time, labor, fuel and equipment wear. If there was a time to take advantage of the benefits polymer-coated urea will provide, it’s right now.
- Carefully select plant material and turfgrass species that need less of everything. Go green by converting combustible engine machinery to battery-powered where it makes sense. If you haven’t already done so, go paperless.
- Make a few concessions. Temporarily lower some expectations and increase thresholds around what you believe is acceptable. Downplay perfection and embrace “that’s good enough this time”.
- Maybe you skip a fertilizer application or postpone painting the shop until next year.
- Practice patience and empathy. Your personal and business health will thank you. And your customers & clients will understand. They see these challenges in all facets of their work and personal lives.
- And remember, we’re all in this together.
There is a silver lining to this ugly pandemic and the supply chain quandary it has created. It has forced us to do things differently. In many cases, we have grudgingly changed the way we operate our businesses. We have discovered that some of these new ways have now become the right way. The smart way. I wish I had purchased Zoom or Home Depot stock about 18 months ago.
There is no better time than now to rethink the way you run your business or do your job. This is a “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” moment. Embrace it. Collaborate with your peers, business partners, and suppliers to find ways to do things differently and better. Not just in the current moment, but for years to come.
Reinders Sports Turf Specialist
Joe works with sports turf managers at all levels, including K12 schools, colleges, universities, municipalities, and professional ball clubs in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. He is an active member of the Minnesota Turf & Grounds Foundation, the Minnesota Parks & Sports Turf Managers Association, the Minnesota Association of School Maintenance Supervisors, and the Sports Turf Managers Association, where he serves on the STMA Editorial Committee and is a member of the STMA Best Management Practices Task Committee. He is a 40-year Green Industry veteran and has worked for Reinders for 11 years.