September 2021

Several weeks after Hurricane Ida struck the Gulf Coast, the Category 4 storm lived up to the hype; Louisiana homeowners, businesses and area churches are in recovery mode from the drenching rains and heavy winds. Many remain in the dark two weeks later. While oil refineries were offline when Ida roared ashore — and for several days thereafter — the resulting supply chain disruptions haven't substantively affected prices at the pump.

More than 72 hours after Hurricane Ida made landfall, over 95.6% of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico was down, National Public Radio reported from Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement data. The same was true for more than 93.7% of natural gas lines. Yet despite the temporary refinery stoppages, experts don't anticipate major price fluctuations at gas stations.

"This is not Katrina," Richard Joswick, head of oil analytics at S&P Global Platts, told NPR.

Katrina — which ironically hit the Bayou State the same day as Ida, only 16 years earlier — was a weaker storm than Ida but caused massive levels of damage that are still being felt over a decade later. The immediate effects on gasoline prices were significant, with the cost of a gallon rising by 45 cents almost immediately, according to NPR.

But by Sept. 6 of this year — Hurricane Ida reached the Louisiana coastline on Aug. 29 — the cost for unleaded regular rose nationwide by just four cents to an average of $3.17 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The cost has since retreated slightly to $3.16 per gallon.

Oil refineries are getting back to normal after Hurricane Ida.Oil refineries are getting back to normal after Hurricane Ida.

Tepid demand for oil
This isn't to say that oil production didn't diminish. Investment bank Goldman Sachs said in a note to investors that it anticipates 40 million barrels of crude production to be lost overall as a result of the pipelines shutting down during and after Ida, Reuters reported. What has prevented prices from rising more substantively is limited demand.

"On net, we believe the storm will have left the U.S. short of around 30 million barrels of total oil, almost entirely in products due to the impact on refinery runs versus demand," Goldman Sachs said, according to Reuters. "While there is pessimism on the oil demand recovery due to the storm, reducing COVID infections, particularly in the U.S., could offset the fall in the coming weeks, with both higher U.S. margins and a tightening WTI-Brent differential."

Storm damage mitigation efforts bearing fruit
Goldman Sachs predicts the oil demand impact to top out at 450,000 barrels per day as a result of Hurricane Ida. The total is much less than previous years storms, especially Hurricane Katrina. Joswick of S&P Global Platts told NPR the improvement is largely due to refineries applying the lessons they learned from Katrina, hardening their infrastructure to mitigate the damage caused by flooding and harsh winds.

"They raised critical equipment up off the ground so it wouldn't flood, for example," Joswick noted.

Two words describe the nation's struggling supply chain: not enough. From not enough raw materials to not enough workers involved in production, shortages of all shapes and sizes are preventing the supply chain from normalizing. Complicating matters even further are the receptacles used at ports to transport manufactured goods: Once again, there simply aren't enough of them.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, steel boxes are increasingly hard to find at many of the world's busiest shipping ports. John Fossey, head of container equipment and leasing research for the container indexing firm Drewry, told the paper that while there is more than enough material to build the steel boxes themselves, the ones that are already built and ready to use are largely stuck in the wrong places, meaning the ports that already have a sufficient amount. A variety of unrelated global events has contributed to the logjam, such as the weeks-long blockage of the Suez Canal that occurred in March and the backup of container ships at the Yantian port in China; that alone led to 350,000 containers being stuck in neutral, unable to reach their intended destinations.

Cost of steel boxes has doubled since 2016
Contributing to the complexity is the cost shippers must pay for steel boxes, as limited supply is driving the average price to new heights. In 2016, the average annualized cost for a standard 40-foot shipping container was approximately $2,500. Today, it's more than double that amount at nearly $6,000, the Journal reported, based on Drewry data. Experts anticipate the price will go even higher as the busy holiday shopping season approaches.

"Approximately 22% of sales go by the wayside when cargo is unable to reach buyers."

The result of not enough shipping containers in the right places is a loss in sales. Indeed, according to a survey of participants belonging to the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, approximately 22% of sales go by the wayside when cargo is unable to reach buyers. This may be due to businesses or consumers canceling their orders or spoilage, as in the case of perishable foodstuffs.

"Global trade right now is the hottest restaurant in town," Brian Bourke, chief growth officer for freight forwarder Seko Logistics, told the WSJ. "If you want to get a reservation, you need to plan it out two months in advance. Everyone's trying to grab any spot they can and they're all spoken for."

Pricy steel boxes to persist into 2022
Perhaps the biggest frustration of all is container prices are expected to remain in lofty territory for the foreseeable future. Philip Damas, who heads the supply chain advisors division at Drewry, said shippers and business owners should expect delays to persist well into 2022.

"There is no end in sight," Damas told the Journal. This could also affect holiday shoppers; buyers may not have their presents in time as Dec. 25 draws nearer.

Timeliness — or lack thereof — isn't likely to adversely affect the giving spirit. The National Retail Federation says a busy holiday shopping season will push overall retail sales to north of $4 trillion in 2021, a double-digit percentage increase from 2020.

For those who have not heard the term “Elevator Pitch” (for the under 40 business population this may be “new jargon”) … it meant if you get into an elevator with someone you wanted to obtain a business relationship with you had the time of traveling up (or down) to make an impression.  Sales folks/Co-workers would time their elevator trips to join the people they needed to connect with for the ride… first ride up in the morning, when they went out to lunch, or when they left for the day.

A good elevator pitch should last no longer than that elevator ride of 30-60 seconds or 75 words. It must be interesting, memorable, and succinct. It must contain or explain what makes you or your organization, product, or idea – unique.  The truth is during that elevator ride the true connection created is of personalities, a foundation during that shared ride and your future timed rides with that individual.

One origin of how the “Elevator Pitch” began is that of Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso, two former journalists active in the 1990s. According to Rosenzweig, Caruso was a senior editor at Vanity Fair and was continuously attempting to pitch story ideas to the Editor-In-Chief at the time, but could never pin her down long enough to do so simply because she was always on the move. So, to pitch her ideas, Caruso would join her during short free periods of time she had, on the elevator ride. Thus, the concept of an “elevator pitch” was created.

Advantages to conducting an elevator pitch include convenience and simplicity. For instance, elevator pitches can be given on short notice and without much preparation due to the pre-planning of the content being delivered within said pitch, making the listener more comfortable. Furthermore, elevator pitches allow the individual who is giving the pitch the ability to simplify the content and deliver it in a less complicated manner by providing the information in a cut-down fashion that gets right to the point.

In this 2021 business world the “Elevator Pitch” as morphed into what has been coined the “Meet and Greet”.   I have even heard it referred to as “Business Speed Dating” no matter how the interaction is referenced, it often is accompanied with a business card being offered or exchanged between the two parties.

Let’s take the convention center “Meet and Greet” scenario – This type of Elevator Pitch/Meet and Greet/Business Speed Dating has been around for decades – you are invited to a booth or get a punch card to visit many booths and then your full punch card is entered into a raffle for a wonderful prize.  At the booth, for as long as you will stand there a representative from that company will determine if your company is a fit to start building a foundation with.  You may be asked for your business card or on your own drop your card in their bucket or have your badge QR code scanned.  If asked for your business card by an individual or QR code scanned, be rest assured, notes about your discussion can immediately be documented for future reference.

True Business card story: I use to work for a company by the name of Medical Logistics 20+ years ago.  It was a startup, and the business cards were dark royal blue with white lettering.  The printer made an error and did the dark royal blue on both sides of the card, there was nowhere to jot down a note on the card! The male Client Acquisition Team members kept their business cards in a right top shirt pocket to easily hand them out at tradeshows – one morning it rained buckets, we all got drenched going into the convention center… the blue leaked onto their shirts! (mine were safely stored in a business card holder in my pocketbook!)

The goal of the business card or QR scan with notes is be able to continue the conversation where it was left off, “dog is Shih Tzu, kids are___” or “company has problems with name a vendor that supplies them X” the next time there is a conversation?

No matter the jargon – The Elevator Pitch/Meet and Greet/Business Speed Dating… the first step is making a connection with an individual in less than a minute… that is a skill very few people have naturally.

 Today an Elevator Pitch is to “hook” a person into truly listening… with our high population of the business world working via Zoom/Teams/Skype for Business etc. combined with being able to hide your face makes many wonders, who is listening? 

The University of Louisiana Monroe morphed to the times and held a Virtual Elevator Pitch competition in 2021 with a 1st place prize of $150?!  Stephen King has been quoted to say, “Sooner or later, everything old is new again.”   

Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso would be proud to know what they did and documented still has relevance in our long distance, virtual business world.

The bottom line, “The Elevator Pitch/Meet and Greet/Business Speed Dating” – the technique builds a comfort level.  Once the comfort level has been created then an introduction to “talk business” can truly begin.  

At Corcentric, we are often introduced to provide both Procurement support and IT related subject matter expertise. In working with IT stakeholders, we strive to develop and maintain the comfort level, listen to pain points, providing resources to improve the client-supplier situation that is creating angst; This enables the building of trustworthy partnerships with our clients.  

From product and produce shortages to delayed deliveries, supply chain constraints have routinely been cited as the source of the U.S. economy's various ills. Now they're being blamed for some of the trucking industry's less-than-stellar conditions.

For the fourth consecutive month, the American Trucking Association's For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index Index fell on a seasonally adjusted basis, this time in July. At 109.8, the index slipped from 111.1 in June, the equivalent of 1.2%.

What is the truck tonnage index?
The truck tonnage index is issued each month by the American Trucking Association. It's designed to represent how much weight, or tonnage, motor carriers haul to their intended destinations. Since nearly 73% of the domestic freight in the United States is transported by trucks, many economists consider it to be an indicator of the nation's economic well-being.

Bob Costello, chief economist for the trade group, said he believes the dip is a product of the ongoing supply chain challenges that are affecting businesses in just about every industry. The ongoing problems associated with not having enough drivers may also be playing a role.

"Not only are there broader supply chain issues, like semiconductors, holding tonnage back, but there are also industry specific difficulties, including the driver shortage and lack of equipment," Costello explained. "For-hire truckload carriers are operating fewer trucks than a year earlier. It is difficult to haul significantly more freight with fewer trucks and drivers."

Truckers are feeling the effects of supply chain instability in the loads they carry.Truckers are feeling the effects of supply chain instability in the loads they carry.

Truckers are hoping to bounce back after a tough 2020
While it's not unusual for the tonnage to diminish in the summer months — especially in comparison to the end of the year during the busy holiday buying season — motor carriers are looking to make up for lost time and money after the fallout from COVID-19. Since many retailers were closed or went out of business due to the shutdown of the economy, tonnage on the year was 3.3% lower than it was in 2019. And on a year-to-date basis, tonnage is 0.2% below where it was at this time last year, according to ATA data.

However, thanks in part to more people getting back to work as well as more Americans deciding to get vaccinated, the trucking industry may rally as the supply chain gets back to normal. The National Retail Federation says it expects retail sales to top $4.4 trillion in 2021. If that comes to pass, it would be a double-digit increase from purchase activity in 2020, up by as much as 13.5%.

"Incoming data suggests that U.S. economic activity continues to expand rapidly, and we have seen impressive growth," said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at NRF. "Most indicators point toward an energetic expansion over the upcoming months and through the remainder of the year."

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay added that a combination of vaccine distribution, private sector ingenuity and fiscal stimulus provided by the government have millions more Americans back on the job. This should help to further reduce supply chain bottlenecks.


A black chalkboard with writing that reads, "HIRING!"

It’s not even autumn yet, but the world’s largest retailer is already looking the deck the halls of its supply chain in anticipation of the holiday season. Walmart hopes the addition of 20,000 full- and part-time Supply Chain professionals will help it maintain an edge over competitors like Amazon during the busiest shopping days of the year.

The Seasonal Supply Chain: Challenges Ahead

The nation’s biggest private workforce will grow thanks to more than 250 hiring events at Walmart and Sam’s Club facilities across the nation on both September 8th and 9th. Open positions range from freight handlers and lift drivers to managerial roles along Wal-Mart’s supply chain.

In addition to stiff competition from other e-tailers and retailers, Wal-Mart faces complications from the ongoingCOVID-19 pandemic and labor shortage. The virus has slowed down manufacturing, shipping, and other essential supply chain stages for more than a year and these issues (along with related congestion and volatility) look certain to continue into 2022.

Standing Out in the Search for Supply Chain Talent

Last year, Walmart responded to unprecedented digital demand by hiring around 20,000 employees to full and part-time jobs. This was the organization’s first significant holiday hiring spree in a half decade. In-person shopping has become safer and more popular in the last year as vaccines have helped to mitigate infection risk, but online retail promises to define the holiday season yet again.

Walmart is touting competitive salaries (averaging $20.37/hour) as well as several new benefits. The organization has begun offering new bonuses to warehouse staff and covering education costs for certain employees. Beginning in October, Walmart will incentivize prospects and employees alike to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by offering an additional bonus. Many competitors are offering similar perks. Amazon, CVS Health, and Walgreens Boots Alliance have all announced plans to boost wages for new employees and Target operates a college program of its own.

Experts suggest they’ve all got their work cut out for them as 2021 draws to a close. Brian Devine, the Senior Vice President of ProLogistix, a staffing firm whose clients include retail giants like Walmart and Target, sounds particularly pessimistic. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, he remarks, “There’ssimply not enough human beings to fill all the open positions.”

What Do Candidates Want? 

With a huge number of open positions to fill, organizations ranging from small businesses to titans like Walmart are hard at work trying to learn what leading candidates want and equipping themselves to offer it.

Across industries and experience levels, leading candidates tend to want many of the same things:

  • Flexibility: One-size-fits-all approaches are anathema to results. Employees know this, which is why they develop their own strategies for addressing common tasks and overcoming obstacles. Organizations claim to believe this, but all too often ask candidates and employees to operate within rigid systems that stifle innovation and tarnish morale. 
  • Opportunity: Nobody wants a dead-end job. Even long-time employees won’t hesitate to leave if they get a sense that they’re bound to be stuck in the same position forever. To stand out, organizations need to regularly consult their people to ensure they’re offering a variety of responsibilities and providing adequate room for everyone at every level to grow. 
  • A Sense of Purpose: Professionals want to know that their actions at work have an impact and that their employers have a positive effect on the world at large. Survey data regularly shows that younger professionals in particular are eager to work for mission-driven organizations that do more than just talk the talk when it comes to critical issues. 

Staff Your Supply Chain

Looking for temporary Procurement and Supply Chain hires to meet seasonal need, support major initiatives, or explore a new category? Corcentric’s recruiting and staffing experts may be able to help. Check out this case study describing an engagement with a North American pharmaceutical leader.