September 2021

From hot tubs to spin cycling exercise equipment, you name the purchase, it's taking longer to arrive to its buyers. Throughout the pandemic, skeleton crews manning assembly lines and factory floors prevented businesses from pumping out product as quickly as they would under normal circumstances. Combined with other factors (i.e. state-mandated shutdowns, waves of infections, industry-specific obstacles, etc.), production delays were largely anticipated.

But more than a year and a half later and with tens of millions fully vaccinated, the supply chain bottlenecks persist. Grocery store staples, living room furniture and budget-friendly automobiles that customers expect to be readily available are either out of stock or back-ordered indefinitely. This poses a problem for organizations catering to convenience-minded shoppers, who prioritize speedy delivery. Fast and reliable shipping is the most important attribute online buyers take into account when purchasing from a business, according to a poll from PricewaterhouseCoopers, ahead of in-stock availability and convenient return policies.

Here's what business owners are doing to realign expectations with an increasingly impatient customer base and, where possible, improve production efficiency:

1. Warning buyers of shipping delays
Customers appreciate the goods and services businesses provide and express that appreciation through loyalty and buying again. But they're even more grateful for being kept in the loop about where orders stand. At the point of purchase, more organizations are informing their customers of how long it will take for their packages to arrive. Giving customers an idea of when merchandise will show up — and the reason for any delay — provides the context buyers need to understand why things are the way they are.

Factory equipment is being rerouted to mass produce what items sell at the highest volume.Factory equipment is being repurposed to mass produce items that sell at the highest volume.

2. Realigning production priorities
Businesses that offer many variations of the same product — such as soft drink suppliers or food manufacturers — are taking a look at their numbers to identify their "cash crop." Instead of using one piece of equipment or assembly line to produce a less popular item, they're devoting those resources to mass producing the foods, beverages and models that sell best. More volume and supply means more of those popular goods can be shipped and delivered on time.

3. Reducing production costs and improving sustainability through consumer incentives
The supply chain is a continuum, where each part has an impact on everything else, whether for better or worse. To shorten the supply chain and rein in the cost of production, some organizations are partnering with suppliers to see what works and improve efficiency.

For example, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, fast food chains such as McDonald's Burger King and Tim Horton's are set to launch pilot programs designed to diminish what they spend on packaging. Teaming with TerraCycle, Inc., these chains are expected to roll out a program where customers return their cups, cartons and sandwich boxes to their nearest collection station instead of throwing them away. This allows them to be reused. Customers can get some of their money back from their purchases by doing so by downloading the Loop app, which is developed by TerraCycle.

While fast food chains typically don't ship goods, their ingenuity and creativity may inspire other businesses to reevaluate their delivery systems to improve efficiency and the path to purchase for time-sensitive buyers.

As the all-important holiday season nears, retailers in both the brick-and-mortar and e-commerce segments are expecting a banner year in terms of sales; even for Halloween, the National Retail Federation is forecasting over $10 billion in sales, up nearly $2 billion from 2020. That would be an all-time high if the NRF's prediction proves prophetic.

But given the ongoing supply chain frustrations that have encapsulated 2021, retailers are buying from their suppliers in bulk now so shoppers have plenty to choose from when the season of giving ramps into high gear.

Lowe's Chief Financial Officer David Denton told investors that while supply has improved in certain areas, they want to be properly prepared given the bottlenecks that remain problematic.

"[Things] are actually getting better, not worse," Denton assured investors, as reported by Supply Chain Dive. At the same time, though, "it's hand-to-hand combat," Denton added, as retailers are competing with one another to ensure they have enough to sell.

83% increase in shipping time
They're also preparing in advance due to how long it's taking for supplies and purchases to reach their intended destinations, particularly those coming from overseas markets. In September, for example, products being shipped from China to the United States took an average of 73 days to arrive, according to estimates from the Port of Los Angeles. That's an increase of 83% compared to the same month in 2019.

That sellers are planning ahead undoubtedly comes as great news for manufacturers, who have expressed their concern over how long it's taking for items to arrive. During a virtual press conference with the Port of Los Angeles, executives for The Toy Association said it would behoove parents to buy for their kids now while shelves are fairly well stocked.

"Right now, toy manufacturers are doing everything in their power to ensure a good supply in stores for the holidays," said Ed Desmond, executive vice president of external affairs for The Toy Association. [B]ut we just don't know what's going to happen down the road as we get closer to Christmas."

Desmond added that a huge portion of the toys sold in the United States — 85% — originate from countries in Asia, such as China, Bangladesh and other major foreign suppliers. 

Problems at the ports have retailers stocking up now for the all-important holiday season.Problems at the ports have retailers stocking up now for the all-important holiday season.

COVID-19 remains a major crisis 
Part of what's contributing to the issue is COVID-19, as the pandemic continues to rage in certain parts of the world where vaccination rates are lower. For example, some warehouses have had to shut down their operations temporarily due to coronavirus infections impacting employees.

However, retailers' proactive stance has others confident that there will be enough product to purchase — and gifts to unwrap — come Dec. 25. Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said as much in an earnings call, noting the company moved "as much inventory as possible" earlier this year in preparation for the holiday buying blitz.

According to Deloitte, holiday sales are poised to jump between 7% and 9% this year compared to last, with e-commerce sales potentially growing 15%.

Despite vast improvements in the COVID-19 crisis, the supply chain has yet to fully normalize, and it appears that one of the initial signs that problems were afoot is resurfacing, as an essential home god is disappearing from store shelves all around the country.

Toilet paper, once again, is a hot commodity.

As of Aug. 29, the supply of paper products in retail stores selling them was approximately 86%, according to data obtained by The Wall Street Journal from market research firm IRI.  While that may sound like a sufficient supply — and well above the 40% level retailers were experiencing in early 2020 — it's well below what's considered normal for consumer products, experts say.

The dearth of paper products isn't occurring in isolated portions of the country, either — it's manifesting just about everywhere.

Arthur Ackles, vice president of merchandising and buying for the Massachusetts-based grocery chain Roche Bros., told the WSJ that buyers in his store are starting to take notice; some feel like history is repeating itself.

"Customers are asking a lot of questions," Ackles explained.

Ackles added that he was given a heads-up regarding the shortage by the company's main supplier, Proctor & Gamble, although the company said it intends to intensify production to in the coming days and weeks.

The fear is if elevated demand continues, it could lead to another wave of panic buying, in which the problem essentially becomes self-perpetuating; people may not necessarily need it, but because everyone else is snatching up toilet paper, they buy while it is still available.

Toilet paper was in short supply throughout the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.Toilet paper was in short supply throughout the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Delta variant concerns may be driving demand
While it's unclear why toilet paper, of all things, is what consumers are choosing to buy in large quantities, the surging Delta variant may be what is spurring the toiletries-purchasing blitz. Despite more than 50% of the country being fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, some are coming down with the Delta variant nevertheless, which doctors and health officials say is more transmissible than COVID-19 but not as deadly. There has also been hesitancy among Americans to get the vaccine, as the nation remains well short of the 70% target the Biden administration aimed to achieve by July.

Frustrated consumers have taken to social media to express their exasperation about the rolling shortage, wondering if this is a forecast of what to expect as winter approaches.

Economists cautiously optimistic
Annoyances aside, Lansing Community College Economic Professor Jim Luke doesn't think this availability crisis will be as long lasting. Speaking to Detroit-based NBC News affiliate WILX, Luke noted that because COVID-19 came as a surprise, manufacturers were caught flat footed and had to adjust production after the fact. He suspects that they'll be able to adjust this time.

At the same time, though, given the ongoing struggles of the supply chain, it may be a bit before paper products are plentiful everywhere.

"It's[a lasting shortage] still entirely possible, and I expect that we will continue to see spot shortages of different kinds of littler items and not something big like toilet paper," Luke said.

Finding the perfect supplier and solution to fulfill any business requirement can be cumbersome and stressful. However, leveraging a sourcing initiative such as a Request for Proposal or Request for Information (RFP,RFI) can help you effectively evaluate the market and its supply base and find the right fit partner(s) and program(s) to satisfy your business objectives. 

Depending on the commodity, service, and depth of the requirement one or multiple strategies can be used. As an RFP encompasses many elements to address and inquire about qualitative and quantitative aspects of supplier capabilities, I want to offer some insight into best practices for writing an effective RFP. 

The RFP should allow you to clearly communicate your specifications, goals and objectives, wants vs. needs, and what is and is not acceptable. Below are some of the critical areas of inclusion recommended that will result in obtaining the right information and therefore allowing you to make an informed decision.

  • Define your project: Explain your business and the reason for the release of the RFP. Brief suppliers on the current state and overall project requirement.
  • An introduction, business overview: What is your business (services or products provided) and what are your values? Is there something unique that should be part of the consideration and selection? You want to ensure bidders align with your vision and company values.
  • Outline the expectations: What are your business goals and objectives? What do you foresee the end state looking like? Make suppliers aware of any paint points you are looking to address or incumbent problems under consideration. This might be something straight forward like replacing old equipment with modern services or it can be more complex and strategic such as replacing workforce resources and services with an outsourced solution that requires various teams to be involved and requires a heavier investment from all parties involved. 
  • The format/style the suppliers should respond with: What are the expectations for the responses? Are there attachments to be populated or specific documents to be submitted? Will demos or POCs be expected?
  • What are the criteria suppliers will be evaluated on? You should look to be extremely specific and categorize each section elaborating on goals and metrics being used. This can help to guide the suppliers to be more explicit with responses and mitigate the sales fluff. 
    • If there are rules around using or not using 3rd party supplier assistance in the RFP make that a separate clear section.
    • If there is special consideration for women owned, veteran owned etc. suppliers, this should be outlined as well. 
  • Outline any potential roadblocks that might delay a decision or allowances for scope change during the RFP and selection process. 
  • State your budget: Although this might be a very conservative number, you should try to set some expectation to what value you have assigned to this project. There are going to be some suppliers who will talk around budget and total cost until they move into next stages, but those who really want and deserve the business will try to work within your confines or be honest early on if they cannot. 
  • Define all timelines and response processes: What are the timelines for each stage of the RFP? Do your best to set expectations for next steps including additional timing for demos and conversations, down-selection, and award. Make sure you provide clear instructions on where responses should be submitted and how all communications should be handled. Providing detailed information in this section can eliminate unnecessary and numerous follow ups from the bidders.
The above sections are just the tipping point to set the stage of your deeper dive inquiry. More to come in my next Blog in looking at the Questionnaire itself and how to ask the right questions and get the right answer in support of your overall decision making.

If you can include the above and be transparent to bidders, you are more likely to mitigate responses from those suppliers who cannot fulfill the request, minimize some of the sales jargon, and ensure responses are on time, within budget, and offer winning solutions. 

Your efforts will help to reflect your expectations for an effective response.


Big Data has been a central topic for corporations for many years now. Typically, this is associated with how organizations use analytics to figure out their most valuable customers, or to create new experiences, services, or products. When devising this strategy, the organization must be considerate of a few key factors:

  1. How will the data be used? What is the objective of obtaining this data?
  2. What story will the data tell?
  3. What does the data contain? Is Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or Protected Health Information (PHI) included?
  4. Who within the organization plans to use the data?

All these questions are key to develop the data management architecture. The Architecture can be divided into three sections:

A.     Data Management

o   The way the data is collected and stored

·         Data Security

o   Part of the data management plan, but specifically focuses on the protection and transfer of data

·         Data Visualization

o   The output/analytics of the data that complete the story. This involves using the data to influence actions within the company 

As a procurement professional, one should consider coaching stakeholders on adding structure to these three sections before establishing their “Big Data” plan. When it comes to data management, a company can implore multiple methods to ingest and manage data. For example, there may be one method for handling customers that is then used for marketing, and another to handle product testing data to influence product development. Let’s consider a real example:

In the Pharma industry, understanding a patient’s lifecycle journey is often critical to conducting research to produce new medicines for the market. These companies need to understand how a patient may react/respond to treatment even when they have not been treated by the company’s medicines. To paint the full patient lifecycle picture, they need a lot of data from a lot of patients around the world. The good news is this data is for sale. The bad news is that the purchasing process can be tricky.

Patient data is protected by HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) Laws. This means that it’s unlawful for a company to buy, use, or track health information that can be directly tied to a particular patient without their consent or knowledge. But how do we create lifesaving pharmaceuticals without understanding the people they are meant to help?

We do something called, “Tokenization.” This allows companies to aggregate patient data and then anonymize it so it cannot be connected and tied back to any individual. By not linking this data to a name or person, we can understand a patient’s medical history without ever knowing the patience. Instead of John Smith, we now have JS100637. John’s name is never recorded or tied to the new “Token.” John as a patient may appear in multiple datasets hosted by various clinical sites that do not communicate with one another. But, by having a token, John’s information is anonymously stored to eventually provide us with the data that may create the next big vaccine or cure for cancer.

Big Data faces a lot of hurdles. Humans are resilient and compassionate. We find ways around the hurdles while also respecting one another and protecting our well-deserved privacy. In the world of procurement, we can be the facilitators of this discussion, ensuring our stakeholders consider each possible outcome and solution to the complex problems they aim to solve. The relationships that are required in the previous example are vital to building a stronger data management architecture. There could be one vendor to tokenize the data, another to establish the data management structure and storage needs, and a final vendor to address the visualization of the data. All must seamlessly work together to create a comfortable user experience with optimized efficiency and productivity.  

It's often said that good help is hard to find. While that's true for many employers these days, the same can be said for products. Due to supply chain constraints, fueled largely by the COVID-19 aftermath, just about every industry is running low on something. In construction, it's lumber; in grocery, it's toilet paper, according to a number of recent reports.

The key to successful and timely productivity is finding the suppliers that have the goods you need on an ongoing basis. The question is, how do you go about doing that?

Here are a few rules to live by:

1. Learn the classification of your supplier
When you go about searching for an alternative or fall-back supplier, it's very important to know what type of supplier you're dealing with. As noted by Entrepreneur, suppliers typically fall into one of four categories:

1. Manufacturers
2. Distributors
3. Importers
4. Craftspeople

Understanding which category your supplier falls in can give you a better idea of whether they'll make for a good partner given your demands. For example, a distributor is more likely to have necessary materials than a manufacturer these days because they work with multiple manufacturers and warehouse those products for sale to business owners. While distributors tend to be more convenient, the tradeoff is you'll likely spend more as a result, or at least more than you would by buying directly from a manufacturer or salesperson who sells on a manufacturer's behalf.

If the materials you need are more niche or specialized, independent craftspeople may be your best bet. Importers who buy from overseas markets are another option. They can cost more, however, due to the expense of shipping and the fees involved.

Like a favorite restaurant that rarely disappoints, consistency is key to finding and evaluating good suppliers.Like a favorite restaurant that rarely disappoints, consistency is key to finding and evaluating good suppliers.

2. Evaluate their track record
Something else that's critical is establishing at the outset that your supplier will be able to come through for you. In other words, do they have the means to make or obtain what you need? It's all about capacity. They should be able to provide evidence that they're capable of producing whatever you require to do your job, including staff, equipment, storage and more.

3. Key in on consistency
Think about the restaurant that you enjoy eating at the most. What is it that gets you to go back time and time again? It isn't just the fact that their food is great, but that it's consistently great. No matter what, you can bank on the fact that you'll have a tasty meal.

The same rule applies to your distributor. Ray Carter, the director of DPSS Consultants, is the originator of "The 10 Cs" concept for assessing high-quality suppliers. Consistency is one of those Cs, along with competency, capacity, commitment, control, cash, cost, culture, cleanliness and communication.

If your supplier is unpredictable, never knowing when they'll have the materials you require, then it's probably time to move on. You can evaluate consistency by doing your research, such as by reading customer reviews online or speaking with colleagues who've worked with particular suppliers.

Procurement problems have created massive delays, bottlenecks and sales slumps for businesses up and down the supply chain. This fact is a major reality for automakers, most of which lack the all-important chips that are essential for cars to operate.

The inability to procure these tiny computer chips will likely lead to a massive gap in expected deliveries for the world's largest nameplate, according to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

40% shortfall in 2021 production
In a forecast issued to the SEC, Toyota announced it will produce approximately 330,000 fewer motor vehicles than it anticipated in the month of October alone. Because of this, and other disruptions, the automaker expects to fall well short of its annual production target, perhaps 40% lower than its initial projections.

In the statement, Toyota pointed to the dearth of semiconductors and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as the main reasons for diminished production.

"The spread of COVID-19 infections remains unpredictable, making it difficult to maintain operations due to lockdowns at various locations, and we are working to transfer production to other regions," Toyota said, referring to several of its factories in hard-hit countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam. As noted by Supply Chain Dive, Vietnam produces many vital parts and components for Toyota models, including wires, seats and frames. In fact, according to VnExpress International, roughly 95% of the auto parts produced in Vietnam go to out-of-country manufacturers including Toyota, Hyundai and Mazda. Around 80% are for Toyota specifically. Malaysia, meanwhile, is a worldwide leader in semiconductor manufacturing and exports. Studies estimate that close to 56% of Malaysia's manufacturing sector derives from exporting the electronics made there.

Tiny computer chips are causing large issues for automakers worldwide.Tiny computer chips are causing large issues for automakers worldwide.

The central ingredients needed to develop semiconductors were already in short supply, but the coronavirus lockdowns that are in place in these countries have compounded the procurement dilemma.

Semiconductors, which allow for electrical processes to take place, have been difficult to come by for much of the year. This is a big reason why automotive dealerships are running low on showroom inventory. Major nameplates like General Motors have been forced to shut down their factories for weeks at a time due to a lack of the materials needed for production and assembly.

Many other industries rely on semiconductors
It isn't just the auto sector that relies on semiconductors. You name the form of electronic, the products need semiconductors to work properly, from smartphones to internet of things products to data communications equipment.

Amit Nagar, a partner at Bain & Company, told Supply Chain Dive that automakers likely won't have first dibs on these semiconductors when they start to become more easily obtainable.

"The suppliers, they'll want to go to the other industries outside of automotive," Nagar warned. "The reason is because automotive is a lower-margin outlet for them versus the electronics companies."

In other words, since many more smartphones and PlayStation game consoles are sold in any given year than automobiles — all of which require semiconductor technology — there's greater economic incentive to sell to manufacturers like Apple, Samsung and Sony.

Bottom line: The procurement problem plaguing the auto industry is poised to continue for the foreseeable future.

The procurement of building materials has been an ongoing headache for real estate construction firms over the past several years, and the problem has only gotten worse in recent months due to the surge in prices fueled by inflation and supply chain disruptions. Indeed, according to a poll conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics, approximately 70% of civil contractors say the dramatic cost increases affecting construction materials — such as lumber, asphalt and metal joists — have affected their timelines for the completion of projects. So much so, more than 3 in 4 are worried about the extent to which rising prices will affect their work schedules in the months ahead.

Contractors remain hopeful, however, that state-of-the-art technology will enable them to locate the suppliers that have the items they need, so projects can get off the ground and completed in a timely fashion.

The tech tools builders are using
One such company leveraging tech is Graham Construction & Engineering. As reported by Supply Chain Dive, the Calgary, Ontario-based developer, which builds both in Canada and the United States, is using a tracking solution that's produced by SAP. Called, the software allows users to identify where they can go to find the resources their project calls for in the appropriate quantity. Most of the structures that Graham Construction & Engineering builds are for commercial use.

Matt Gramblicka, who serves as vice president of information technology and enterprise applications at Graham Construction & Engineering, told Supply Chain Dive that the solution helps to eliminate guesswork by increasing transparency.

"It's really about having visibility into where that market shift is, and making sure that we have the right connections with people to actually get the supply in the first place," Gramblicka explained.

He added that previously, you had to actually talk to someone to get the materials, often in person. Being able to do it all electronically now is a game changer because "you know where things are and how it is getting there."

Lumber prices have skyrocketed, and certain types are difficult to locate.Lumber prices have skyrocketed, and certain types are difficult to locate.

Construction Intelligence Cloud Service
Another developer finding success with tech is Pepper Construction. Headquartered in Chicago, Pepper Construction has experienced the longest delays with materials such as precast wall panels and steel bar roof joists; the demand for these items exploded in 2020 and it continues. However, the Midwestern developer has been able to procure these materials through an intelligence cloud service from Oracle. Called the Construction Intelligence Cloud Service, Oracle's latest innovation helps builders and project managers identify where materials are in the supply chain and what companies have had them available in the recent past.

Oracle Vice President Burcin Kaplanoglu said the solution gives construction companies more options and context so they can make smarter buying decisions.

"You can look at their relationships with suppliers, see how much they communicate, even see the amount of requests for information they've had. Those are the tools our customers are starting to use," Kaplanoglu told Supply Chain Dive.

While these technologies may not completely resolve procurement problems, users say they're helping them cope with economic realities so they can work more efficiently. 

As offices across the country begin reopening, many organizations have begun the process of reengaging former facility service providers to reactivate programs that were disrupted as a result of temporary facility shutdowns.  Some examples of categories impacted by facility closures includes services such as water & coffee, food & beverage, security, and janitorial services.  While there is a lot to gain by establishing a go-to-market sourcing strategy for each of these categories, this blog will specifically focus on how to successfully source best-in-class janitorial and cleaning services. 

Identify current state vs desired future state

Before going to market it’s important to understand what’s working and not working with your current janitorial services provider.  Take the time to run an internal review and score the supplier based on factors that are important to your company, some examples may include: Is facility cleanliness acceptable, are staffing levels adequate, are response times for emergencies acceptable?  Understanding the pain-points with your current supplier will help naturally pivot the next crucial step which is updating and/or creating a Scope of Work to align with your desired future state.  The Scope of Work (SOW) should be created and included in your janitorial services contract to ensure supplier expectations are clearly established.  Any concerns regarding the requirements established in the SOW should be aligned on between both parties prior to contract execution to ensure your desired future state is fully understood.   

Request for Proposal (RFP) development

Prior to building your RFP to receive supplier pricing, it’s important to ensure you have the correct janitorial service providers invited to this sourcing event.  I highly suggest starting this process off with a Request for Information (RFI) with detailed questions submitted to a wide range of potential suitors to help identify suppliers that fit the needs and requirements within your newly updated SOW.  Once this list of potential janitorial services providers has been properly vetted, the RFP construction process can begin

When building your RFP, it’s important to arm bidders with the proper metrics to ensure an accurate bid can be delivered to help meet the requirements established within your SOW.  Some examples of metrics that will lead to a successful RFP may include: total locations in scope, cleanable sq/ft per location, supplier’s forecasted full-time employee (FTE) bid count per location, and FTE hourly rate per location.  While there are many other metrics that could also be included, these selected inputs shared by bidders will enable you to accurately understand costs by location as well as the total cost to service your janitorial services portfolio.

Holding awarded supplier accountable

Congratulations, you’ve successfully gone to market and identified your suitable janitorial services provider through a successful sourcing initiative.  While you’ve confirmed that the supplier’s price is acceptable, now is not the time to let up!  It’s important to establish processes during the contracting phase to help manage expectations of the supplier, and to ensure they are held accountable.  For instance, if you wish to establish a required cleanliness score minimum across your entire portfolio, apply language within the agreement that applies penalties associated with facility scores below a certain threshold.  Quarterly check-ins should also be a goal to ensure continuity is in place, this can be achieved by including language in the contract requiring Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) to be conducted.  While these suggestions may not seem like much, they can often mean the difference between a good program and a great program.  

Going out to market can be a daunting task at times, I hope this blog helps guide you and your organization along the way to successfully source best-in class janitorial and cleaning services.  

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.