The Supply Chain Mess Explained in Layman Baseball Terms

“We expect it to be here in 12-14 weeks.” I thought that was a crazy long time to wait for a new coffee pot. I asked, how long did it take to get before Covid, “10 days tops” he said. That my friends is the mess we are all dealing with right now.

The supply chain is the process of getting the things we buy from the factory (often in China or other parts of Asia) delivered to the stores here in America. It is currently really messed up. How did a global pandemic wreak havoc on a century’s old system? Let me explain the supply chain mess in layman baseball terms.

Bases are loaded and runners advance one base at a time.

Pre-pandemic the supply chain was working smoothly, much like a rally with bases loaded where the team batting keeps hitting single after single allowing the runners to advance one base at a time. Factories in China and other parts of Asia made my coffee pot, put it on a truck which took it to a ship, the ship sailed it to a seaport on the West coast of America, which put it on a train or semi-truck which brought it to my store for me to buy. There were occasional hiccups, but generally, things worked well and coffee pots and everything else arrived in the stores on a routine basis.

The batter hits a line drive instead of a grounder and the runners all freeze or stand still.

When the pandemic hit in February and March of 2020 everything came to a complete stop. The factories closed, the trucks stopped driving, the ships stopped sailing, ports stopped unloading, the American trains and trucks stood still. Everything came to a complete halt. For the first time since the European ships started supplying the 13 American colonies the supply chain completely stopped moving.

The batter runs to first, but the baserunners are still freezing on a line drive causing a traffic jam on the base pads.

The factories (our batter) started production again just a few weeks into the pandemic. They may have only been at half capacity because of social distancing delays with their suppliers but they started making some coffee pots again. The problem was the trucks, ships, ports, and trains were slow to start up again and when they did, they were operating at very low capacity and the coffee pots got stuck in the factory.

More runners leave the dugout and try to run to first base which already has a baserunner and batter because the other runners have yet to advance.

Early in the pandemic the bored Americans who were spending much more time at home than they were used to realized they had a terrible coffee pot and wanted to buy a new one with their government stimulus check. The supply chain was already behind at the factories and the different modes of transportation wasn’t even at half capacity and then the factories received a whole lot more orders for coffee pots.

The result: way too many kids on the bases and none of them running but all of them pointing fingers at each other.

Since the pandemic, the supply chain hasn’t been able to catch up. The trucks, ships, ports, and trains are working closer to normal capacity but are still struggling to catch up leading to longer-than-normal delivery times and product shortages. The trucks got the merchandise to the ship, but the ships are stuck at sea because of backups at the seaports.

Who is to blame?

It’s too easy to just blame everything on the pandemic. I think the supply chain was messed up before the pandemic and it couldn’t start back up quickly or run faster than it had before. The outdated ports, extra stimulus money, and worker shortage was the perfect storm.

When will things get back to normal?

Possibly not until the end of 2023 or even late 2024. Countries are building more ships, but they won’t hit the water until late 2023 and even when they do, they won’t be able to be unloaded any faster because our seaports are outdated. Using my baseball analogy, adding more ships only fixes one base runner but doesn’t fix the whole system.

Fixing a supply chain traffic jam is tough but is fixable. What will fix it is time. Time to smooth out some problems and time for companies to get creative to find workarounds. I think they will. So, while they figure things out, I guess I will keep using my old coffee pot and just be excited whenever the new one shows up.

Have a blessed week!

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Independent Advisor Alliance (IAA), a registered investment advisor.

IAA and Fervent Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial.