2021

You don't need to be a restaurateur to know that inflation is as hot as a pressure cooker at the moment. But since you do own a dining establishment, and food represents a substantial portion of what you spend your money on, you're keenly aware of the domino-like effect rising food costs can have on how you manage your cash flow. It leaves you with less discretionary spending and more room for error in regard to your various purchasing decisions. As it is, it's extraordinarily difficult to thrive as a restaurateur, as demonstrated by how many restaurants wind up shutting their doors shortly after opening them, often within a year or two. 

Adding insult to injury, the cost of food is expected to continue climbing into 2022, according to several economists, since inflation is poised to persist.

Bottom line: While you may be spending more, there are strategies you can implement that will help you offset rising business costs by adjusting to the current economic environment. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Streamline your menu
If you've owned a restaurant for a while, your menu has likely expanded — perhaps with each passing year. But it's highly likely that many of those dishes don't sell at quite the rate as the other more popular menu items. Take a look at your receipts to see what items sell the best month to month. In prioritizing these top sellers, you'll reduce your food costs and also diminish waste. As CNN Business has reported, several well known restaurant chains are making their menus leaner, including Dave & Buster's, McDonald's and IHOP. Not only are they spending less, they're also finding it to be a hit with customers by making it easier to decide. Mark Salebra, who chairs the McDonald's National Franchisee Leadership Alliance, noted in a statement that customer satisfaction scores have improved "significantly" since dialing back their dish offerings.

Smaller menus can yield substantial savings in terms of cost management.Smaller menus can yield substantial savings in terms of cost management.

2. Consider kiosks
For just about every business, restaurants included, the biggest ongoing cost is labor; it's the expense that takes up most of their budgets. But if you own the kind of dining establishment that's more quick-serve in nature, investing in a self-ordering kiosk can make a lot of sense. Kiosks allow customers to have more control over and customization of what they order and allow you to use staff more strategically. Subway, McDonald's and Chili's have all rolled out self-service kiosks and experienced better sales as a result, increasing figures by approximately 5% (McDonald's) and 20% among appetizers (Chili's), according to a report from Workstream.

3. Focus on retention
The restaurant sector experiences a high rate of turnover, particularly among certain segments such as fast food or fast casual. In fact, the annual turnover rate among fast-casual restaurants ranges between 130% and 150%, according to a report from CNBC. This compares to a national rate of 49% in the private sector overall. 

Having to train new employees is a major expense. Thus, retention is key. Speaking to your employees about what makes them satisfied in their jobs can help you determine what retention strategies to key in on.

With the overwhelming majority of toys purchased in the United States shipped from overseas, major retailers and manufacturers are preparing parents for an unfortunate fact this Christmas: Their intended purchases may not be available in stores. This is due to the supply chain logjams occurring at shipping ports all around the world.

But in an attempt to sidestep the port disorder and ensure children have plenty of toys waiting to be unwrapped come Christmas morning, one of the world's largest toy manufacturers has turned to nearshoring as a workaround. So far, it's proven to be a successful Plan B strategy.

In an October earnings call with reporters, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz indicated that the multinational toy manufacturer is nearshoring several of its production processes so the path to purchase is shorter and deliverables arrive on store shelves in a more timely fashion. Nearshoring is a supply chain strategy that involves transferring a particular business operation — such as packaging or parts and assembly — to a location that isn't as far away. Kreiz indicated that Mattel's early implementation of nearshoring enabled the company to reach its sales goals for the third quarter.

"We anticipated short supply and longer lead times, and factored that into our planning with mitigating actions," Kreiz explained. "For example, we expedited procurement of raw materials, pulled forward finished goods production to increase capacity, invested in additional tooling to dual source manufacturing of critical product lines, leveraged our diverse manufacturing footprint to optimize nearshoring of production, contracted ocean freight capacity and rates in advance and secured access to additional ports and shipping lanes."

Mattel says nearshoring will  help ensure more of its products will be available for purchase during the holidays.Mattel says nearshoring will help ensure more of its products will be available for purchase during the holidays.

Delivery times have risen more than 80%
This past September, The Toy Association issued a warning to retailers, informing them that ongoing supply chain disruptions would likely result in more empty shelves as buyer volume intensifies. That's because 85% of the toys bought in the United States are manufactured in Asia, according to the Toy Association. In that month, it was taking approximately 73 days for products shipped from China to arrive in the United States, according to estimates from the Port of Los Angeles. That's an increase of 83% compared to September 2019, Supply Chain Dive reported from Freightos figures.

Kreiz said that Mattel's early implementation of nearshoring will enable the company to be more nimble and respond to consumer demand as it intensifies. "We are ready for a strong holiday season," Kreiz added during the earnings call.

Meanwhile, other toy manufacturers haven't been as successful with their supply chain challenges. For instance, Hasbro CEO Rich Stoddart said that approximately $100 million worth of orders in the third quarter went unfilled because of supply chain bottlenecks and port congestion. However, Hasbro Chief Financial Officer Deborah Thomas said  the products which were in limbo have since arrived to their intended destinations, as Hasbro has "delivered much of what was delayed in the third quarter despite continued supply chain challenges."

Notwithstanding these troubles, revenues for Hasbro rose 11% in the third quarter, according to the press release.

While much has been said about the truck driver shortage, the industry doesn't lack for participation or size. In addition to employing nearly 2 million people (according to the Department of Labor), three of the 50 most common jobs in America are all related to trucking (i.e. industrial truck and tractor operators, light truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer drivers), as a report from Stacker found after reviewing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nevertheless, the American Trucking Associations says that if hiring doesn't pick up the pace, motor carriers and the industry as a whole could be at least 160,000 drivers shy of the number necessary to meet demand as soon as 2028.

But as Freight Waves recently reported, it isn't young people or those who are middle-aged who are seeking their commercial drivers licenses of late; it's seniors — or those who are on the cusp of senior citizen status. They may hold the key to resolving some of the supply chain issues affecting the nation's ports. 

'It was just time for me to do something else'
One of those people who may have a role to play is Ed Falls, a retired school band director. Speaking to Freight Waves, the 57-year-old noted that with his teaching days behind him, he was ready to pursue a different line of work, and the trucking lifestyle just so happened to be in line with his likes and interests.

"It was just time for me to do something else and I always like driving," Falls explained. "I like over-the-road stuff. I like the freedom."

Freedom — or more precisely, more free time — is part of what has inspired more seniors to pursue trucking as a post-retirement career. Being freed from traditional job responsibilities — as well as family responsibilities since their kids have left home — has made the transition to trucking fairly seamless.

John Albert, who has been driving a truck professionally for 14 years now after obtaining his CDL at 55, noted that he likely couldn't have gotten into trucking were it not for the fact that he had more free time in his mid-50s.

"If I was younger and I still had children at home, I would not do it," Albert told Freight Waves.

Seniors are increasingly taking up truck driving as a post-retirement career path.Seniors are increasingly taking up truck driving as a post-retirement career path.

Retirements a major contributor to driver shortage
That more seniors are becoming truck drivers is, in some ways, out of step with current employment trends in the trucking industry. In fact, as the American Trucking Associations has detailed, a big reason why the shortage of drivers is as large as it is is due to so many truckers exiting the workforce. Between 2021 and 2030, an estimated 400,000 drivers will be retiring, according to the trade association's estimates.

But now, it seems, many of the people who are replacing the more seasoned truck drivers are their senior contemporaries, just those who are brand new to the job.

That said, industry experts stress that more young people are needed in order for the sector to grow and develop. Since seniors are already in the latter half of their working years, they don't have as much time to extend their careers as those who are in their twenties and thirties. Currently, the median age for over-the-road drivers is 46 and for private fleet drivers, it's 57, based on a 2019 report from the American Trucking Associations. To grow the business, that median age will need to go down.

In the meantime, the supply chain stands to benefit from unclogging the existing bottlenecks. 

What kind of relationship do you have with your suppliers? Do you maintain an ongoing correspondence, or is it more or less a relationship that is exclusively transactional in nature?

In a post-COVID world, supplier relationships are more important than ever. While hundreds of thousands of businesses did not make it through the pandemic, forced to close due to mounting costs and a lack of cash flow, others survived, often through a combination of good fortune and strategic cost-cutting.

Still, many can't help but wonder: What if? What if the materials I need from my supplier were to suddenly not be available? What what would my company do if my supplier went out of business?

The key to ensuring ongoing supply — and being cognizant of supply chain bottlenecks — is by maintaining a relationship with your supplier(s).

Here are a few tips that supply chain management experts put together for Harvard Business Review. While the piece was written back in 2004, the tips they offer are every bit as applicable today as they were then:

1. Become more well acquainted with your suppliers' processes
Understanding the ins and outs of what goes into creating a microchip or crop cultivation gives you a better appreciation for the work that goes into it and why delivery takes the amount of time it does.

As Harvard Business Review contributors Jeffrey Liker and Thomas Choi point out, supplier relationships are founded on mutual understanding and becoming as intimately familiar with your suppliers' processes as they are. This entails research, study and being on site — on the factory floor — when production processes are underway.

Do you know how your suppliers create what they do?Do you know how your suppliers create what they do?

2. Diversify your suppliers
Among the biggest mistakes retailers, restaurans and other businesses that rely on suppliers made during the COVID-19 pandemic was putting all their supply eggs in one basket. So when their suppliers had to shut down, it compromised sales.

Supplier diversification not only lowers risk, but it also encourages competition. As Liker and Choi noted, supplier competition incentivizes producers to perform in a way that will result in a new contract or extend an existing one.

3. Supervise suppliers if you can
Being on the scene when producers are engaged in their work not only gives you a bird's eye view of their processes, it also allows for supervision. This supervision isn't necessarily done to ensure that they're doing their job but to offer feedback, advice or support. According to Choi and Liker, automakers are known to send report cards to their suppliers to communicate problems with delivery, performance history and words of encouragement or gratitude.  

4. Know the lingo or develop your own
Depending on your business, some of your suppliers may be overseas, and your points of contact may speak an entirely different language. Conversations that are lost in translation can lead to unnecessary confusion and unfulfilled orders. Liker and Choi recommend establishing a common lexicon or relying on verbiage that everyone understands, which allows key stakeholders to stay on the same page.

By implementing these suggestions in tandem with strategic information sharing and joint improvement activities, you can maintain a more reliable supply that is grounded in better communication.




The United States auto industry has been producing and creating more cost-efficient electric cars since the 1970’s. Companies such as Tesla and Nissan are the pioneers in this type of technology and now have competition from other world automakers. The demand continues to increase for more sustainable consumer products. However, one sector that is often overlooked is the electric truck freight automotive. Despite the lack of popularity and visibility compared to consumer automobiles, the fright and semi-truck business is quite crucial for the logistics of goods both in the U.S. and abroad. As governments and corporations find new ways to reduce carbon emissions, the supply chain infrastructure offers a perfect opportunity to reduce carbon emissions. 

Freight truck emissions are one of the more substantial carbon emitters in the world with an estimated 1.8 billion tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere in 2019* (62% of all cargo freight emissions). One of the easier ways that business could decarbonize their supply network distribution is to invest in electric trucks and freights.

The cost-effectiveness of Electric freight trucks.

One of the important aspects in the push for a greener supply chain is making ensure “greener” provides a cost-effective solution. The cost analysis of operating a transport truck is based on several factors: 

Electric Freight trucks are still more expensive to purchase upfront than their diesel counterparts due to the high battery costs. 

According to Forbes, A 375-mile range truck with the current battery price of $135/kWh is expected to cost as much as 75% more than a diesel counterpart. 

In terms of cost per mile efficiency the electric trucks already seem to be a substantial cost-effective option.

“A Class 8 electric truck—the heaviest long-haul trucks, weighing more than 33,000 pounds -traveling an average of 300 miles a day would cost 13% less to own per mile than a conventional diesel truck” (Forbes). 

Electric costs are based upon electricity demand; the cost of fueling can be substantially cheaper by charging during off demand hours. 

There is a lower maintenance cost because the electric engines have fewer moving parts and thus receive less wear and tear than a normal diesel engine. 

A study of the Argonne National Laboratory shows that maintenance costs are 40% cheaper for Electric Vehicles (EV’s) than Internal engine combustion (ICE) vehicles.  

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – some additional factors:

Depreciation

Tax benefits

Insurance 

The bottom line –This elevated initial investment makes most companies unwilling to switch their fleet, when considering that electric trucks do not have an efficient driving range compared to a diesel truck. For reference a normal diesel semi-truck can drive 2,100 miles before having to refuel the tank**, compare this to an electric truck that at 375-miles needs to recharge. 

How Sustainable are Electric Vehicles?

The three main factors to consider: 

Electricity power matrix

Freight production emissions 

Battery waste management

One big caveat in the sustainable potential of this technology is the electric grid of the country where the freight trucks is being used. If the local energy matrix used to charge truck relies mostly from fossil fuels, then the carbon emission reduction becomes less expressive. 

The EPA points out Electric Vehicles (EV’s) are comparably better than fossil fuel engines since they have a 100% rate of carbon emission compared to the more reliant fossil fuel matrixes that use a high percentage but generally not 100% carbon emitting sources. The energy matrix across every country in the world is decarbonizing which makes EV’s a better sustainable solution in the long run. 

In addition, there is the issue of production; electric freight trucks can produce more carbon emissions in its production than normal trucks due to the energy intensive process require to produce the batteries in the first place. Overall, the total Green House Gas (GHG) emissions per lifetime for electric vehicles is lower than fossil fuel engines so it is a better option in the long run despite the short-term trade-off in increased carbon emissions. 

An outlying issue, yet to be addressed is the recycling of the EV batteries and the fossil fuel cars that are going to be replaced. For the solution to work diesel and gas automobiles will have to be reused or recycled. The solution for lower carbon emissions should not come at the trade-off creating another negative environmental externality.

Conclusion

In 2021, electric trucks are still in proof of concept, that has yet to be fully implemented. Additional research is needed to reduce electric battery cost and increase the mileage range per electric charge. There is potential for success in this environmentally friendly solution but it’s yet to prove to be economically feasible.

Companies should be on the lookout for improved electric truck technology, which will down the road create a greener supply chain.

If you have any questions about this blog post please email me at ppeebles@corcentric.com for information about our fleet procurement, fleet financing  and the GPO please click https://www.corcentric.com/fleet-solutions/.

Sources:

*According to our world in data

**According to Schneider National

 


TEAMS is chocked full of functionality, in fact so much so that it would take quite a bit of time to learn it all.  The pandemic sped up the use of TEAMS and Microsoft increased the functionality by leaps and bounds to keep pace.

Very few people use all the features.

I was introduced to TEAMS in January 2020.  I had no previous experience; the system, for the most part, is extremely user friendly and intuitive.  

The functions highlighted below are nifty ones used by many on a daily basis:

TEAMS communication options fall into 1 of 4 types

(no difference if scheduled or impromptu)

  • Chat only functionality - text conversation. 
  • An audio only call (all parties picture or initials appear) with or without screen sharing.  
  • Full video meeting (live faces) with or without screen sharing. 
  • Audio call with people outside of the company - a traditional phone call.

I recommend considering  the "traffic light” approach prior to reaching out to someone internal for any type of communication (this is the availability status circle by the internal employee’s name or initials in TEAMS:

  • Available - for calls and screen chat. 
  • Busy - will receive chat messages and will have functionality to answer back. 
  • Do Not Disturb with horizontal slash – no outside screen chat will appear until the has concluded. 
  • Be right back with a clock sign - The person is temporarily unavailable or is finishing a task. (Be right back can only be set manually if your computer is idle/ screen lock or “asleep”)  
  • Offline - It means the person is currently not using TEAMS, connected to the company, and until they log back into Corcentric they are not receiving messages. 

How to take and share notes in a team’s meeting

  • Selecting the “More Actions” icon
  • Select the “show meeting notes” option
  • A side pane will pop up select the “take notes”

I need all the organization help I can get; with the elimination of paper files and the growth of a “cloud filing system” I can easily loose items. TEAMS provides the ability to “Pin” – think of a bulletin board.

Pinning/organizing your teams

  • Open Microsoft Teams. 
  • Go to the team and channel you want to pin.
  • Find the post and click the more options button at top right.
  • Select Pin.
  • The post will be pinned to the top. The post is pinned for everyone, if part of a channel.

Edit in DESKTOP APP 

While in the document others that have access to the same document will be able to edit simultaneously and EVERYONE’s collaborative changes/updates will be AUTOSAVED!

FYI - changes can be made in the channel/non-desktop environment, however this is where (in my opinion) TEAMS is flawed; when multiple parties making changes, alignment and structure can become skewed.

 How to save a message/chat/or link to files

  • Find the message you want to save.
  • Hover over the message and click the bookmark icon to save the message.
  • Once the message is saved, the bookmark icon will appear red, and a message will pop up indicating that the message was saved.

How to find saved items

  • Just to the right of the text.
  • To see a list of your saved messages, select your profile picture at the top of the app and choose Saved.

How to copy and send a link

  • Select Format beneath the message box.
  • Select Insert link.
  • Add display text and the address.
  • Select Insert or copy and paste the link into the message box.
  • Select Send.

Emojis and Gif’s in Teams – Why & When 

According to the company hibox - (Paraphrased) "There are real, measurable benefits to the increasingly casual form of communication that has become the norm of the most innovative businesses. Without in-person interaction, there’s little emotional dimension to our messages at work which can tax employee engagement and relationships. Formal communication is being factored out in favor of informal methods which include emojis and GIFS because we simply work better this way. Using Emojis and Gif's in appropriate business communication produces better results!" 

TEAMS has over 800 Emojis, stickers and Gif’s incorporated into the platform.  On my team,  if a message is received with no action or reply required, the “thumbs up” is posted as a confirmation of being received/read by the recipient.  

Please know your audience prior to adding emojis, GIF or Stickers to group reads, channels – especially if clients are part of the communication/information stream. 

How to access the “Secret” Emoticons in TEAMS 

  • Open Microsoft Teams. Go to either a teams' channel or a chat thread. 
  • Click inside the text input field and enter the colon character: 
    • Follow this character up with a letter for example a and emoticons that start with the letter will appear in the list.  🚲🍱🧐

These quick how-to tips are are used frequently and offer effective interactions both internally to an organization and when engaging external resources. TEAMS offers extensive robust features and functionality; continuously helping to bridge the gap of face-to-face interactions that are still impacted by Covid. 

Corcentric is currently looking for qualified staff... www.corcentric.com/company/careers/

If an opening is of interest or if you have questions about the company please email me at twankoff@corcentric.com.

Maintaining a healthy level of cash flow is central to financial success as a business owner. When your customers purchase a good or service, whether by cash or credit, you use those funds to keep your company running by addressing your own expenses, such as labor, utilities, repairs, you name it. But with the consumer price index soaring to a 30-year high in October — a 6.2% increase from a year earlier, according to data from the Department of Labor — your cash flow may be adversely affected if soaring prices result in a sales slowdown.

Consequently, in such cases it becomes that much more important to keep tabs on your cash flow so inflation doesn't take a toll on your business's finances. Here are a few tips on how to more effectively manage the money coming into and out of your business:

1. Consider selling products or services on a subscription basis
As seasonal businesses can attest, purchase activity can wax and wane depending on the time of year. A great way to get more sales consistency is by offering customers what you sell through a subscription. As recommended by Forbes, a subscription model can be a great deal both for you and your customers: They get more of what they need or want throughout the year — typically at a lower per-unit price than they would if they made a single purchase — while your company generates more cash flow on a month-to-month basis. This model also can help your business be more competitive by matching what your customers are used to, in terms of selling price or merchandise selection, from rival organizations.

2. Evaluate what you spend on a yearly basis
It's fairly commonplace to think about what you spend to keep your business operating on a monthly basis, or even weekly. Instead, calculate what your costs are over an entire year, Forbes advised. This way, you'll have a better understanding of how much money you need on hand over the long term so you can make the necessary accounting, spending or operational adjustments when the flow of revenue isn't as consistent as it is in other times of the year.

Central to business success is cash flow management.Central to business success is cash flow management.

3. Evaluate your wiggle room
When it comes to payments, creditors and vendors typically fall into one of two categories: those that have a hard deadline on when a debt is due and those that offer some leeway. When cash is tight, it doesn't hurt to ask creditors if it's OK to pay them later, the Baltimore Business Journal advised. Even when you're in good shape cash flow wise, it's worth asking this question so you can better prioritize your various bill payments and invoices.

4. Offer discounts to customers that pay right away
There are a variety of advantages for when customers pay up front, the most obvious one being that it enables you to take care of your cost concerns right away. As such, make it worth your customers' while to pay at the point of purchase, as the Baltimore Business Journal further suggested. You can do so by offering a percentage discount or if they buy items in bulk.

If turning back time was an option and COVID-19 could be erased from history, most business owners would likely take advantage of such an opportunity. But at the same time, the coronavirus provided a number of invaluable lessons that might never have been learned otherwise. For example, the pandemic demonstrated the importance of alternative sourcing and why diversifying suppliers can ensure continuity when disaster strikes.

However, if you're in a niche industry, sole source suppliers may be your only viable option. Thus, it's important to mitigate the risks that are endemic to having just one supplier (in total or for certain components) wherever you can. Here are a few tips that can help you do just that:

1. Be ever mindful of changing business conditions
One of the many reasons COVID-19 was as devastating as it was for the economy was due to the fact that no one saw it coming. Yet in hindsight — which is always 20/20 — there were some clues about the impact any airborne disease would have on supply chains. That's why it's important to pay attention to your business environment, advised Supply Chain Dive. From labor issues to logistical constraints to inventory shortages, being cognizant of production trends and how they're affecting your business can help you make the proper adjustments to reverse those trends.

Problem identification is central to supply chain management.Problem identification is central to supply chain management.

2. Identify the source of the issue
If the products you sell require multiple sole sources, then you may not know which sole source lies at the root of the problems you're experiencing. You can make the identification process easier by creating a database that keeps track of all your sole-source suppliers, Supply Chain Dive further recommended. Doing so will not only help you establish the extent of the problem you're experiencing, but whether it originates with a sole source or a single source supplier. If the latter is true, it may be worthwhile to seek out a new partner.

3. Incentivize performance by communicating your expectations
Mutual interest is the key to any business-sole source relationship. But when it comes to delivering on your high expectations, you may need to make productivity more of a priority for the supplier. If you can, find out what motivates your vendor. Discovering their goals and what inspires them to perform can inspire teamwork, planning and implementation of the strategies that ensure execution.

4. Move away from sole sourcing
Depending on your industry, it may be impossible to entire avoid sole sourcing, but if you're interested in selling or making new products for purchase, avoid those that are sole source dependent. Given the all or nothing nature of sole sourcing, the risks may outweigh the benefits.

5. Reconsider just-in-time inventory
As many manufacturers can attest, just-in-time inventory has been touted in recent years as a preferable — and more profitable — supply chain management option. But it proved to be a mistake in the wake of COVID-19, of which the global supply chain continues to feel the consequences. Shoring up your inventory — buying more than you need — can give you sufficient cover if your sole source supplier goes offline.

In mid-October, President Joe Biden stated from the White House the Port of Los Angeles would become a 24/7 operation until further notice, remaining open at all hours of the day and night. This decision — which the president called a "game changer" — was aimed at reducing the volume of containers and ships seeking to offload cargo at one of the nation's busiest ports.

Close to a month after making that announcement, the backlog there seems to be dwindling, but perhaps not at the speed the administration — nor anyone else, for that matter — would like. As a result, the Port of Los Angeles is slated to hand out fines to shipping companies that are dragging their feet. So far, that policy seems to be having its intended effect.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, ocean carrier companies whose containers are taking too long to be removed from terminals will be hit with a fine. Set to go into effect on Nov. 15, the cost of these fines will depend on how long containers have been there. Currently, businesses have six days to clear the area, but if it goes beyond that, the charge will be doubled for every additional day that it takes. For example, one day will cost them $100, two days is $200, three days is $400, and on from there. The Port of Long Beach will be adopting this same rule.

Shipping containers are slowly but surely dwindling at California's main ports.Shipping containers are slowly but surely dwindling at California's main ports.

Congestion is easing
The intent behind the fine is to provide a greater sense of urgency to the issue. So far, even though the fees are not in force as of this writing, containers are moving at a faster clip, according to Noel Hacegaba, who serves as deputy executive director at the Port of Long Beach.

"This fee is already meeting its objective," Hacegaba said in a prepared statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, since shipping companies were made aware of this new fee, container volume has slid by 26% at the Port of Long Beach and by 14% at the Port of Los Angeles, the paper reported. That translates to 10,000 fewer containers.

'Not like flipping a light switch'
While this is a notable improvement, it didn't start out that way. Approximately 24 hours after Biden's speech, there were five dozen container ships anchored in San Pedro Bay waiting to offload, according to the Wall Street Journal. Slated to arrive within days were an additional 25 ships, said Gene Seroka, executive director at the Port of Los Angeles.

John Porcari, a port envoy who was named to the Biden administration's Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force in August, told the WSJ at the time it would take the 24/7 port policy a while to bear fruit.

"This is not like flipping a light switch," Porcari said.

Today, however, those who frequent these ports say congestion conditions have definitely improved — albeit incrementally. Harbor Trucking Association Chief Executive Matt Schrap said this is particularly true of new boxes, as previously, the dwell time for new containers was significant; that's not the case anymore. Schrap told the Los Angeles Times he believes the fee has been the catalyst.

When it comes to products, components and materials that are hard to find, some seem to be more highly publicized than others. This is partially a function of how widely they're relied upon and utilized. For instance, since microchips are required in the manufacture of automobiles, gaming consoles, smartphones, tablets and many other kinds of merchandise sold on showroom floors or big box stores, it's no surprise that chips are well known to be in short supply. The same can be said for aluminum, a shortage that has driven up the cost of production, a cost passed on to consumers.

But there are a variety of other shortages that aren't as widely discussed, some of which are on the cusp of — or have already reached —scarce stage. Understanding what those are can help business owners establish expectations for customers and develop strategies to mitigate the resulting effects on productivity. 

Resin
Whether it's used for walls, exteriors, fences or concrete, paint is a staple of home improvement and specialty stores. But paint suppliers like Benjamin Moore, Behr and BASF Coatings have less of it than normal. This includes Sherwin-Williams, the largest painting company in the world in terms of annual revenues.

The reason is resin: There isn't enough of it. Resin is a polymer used in the manufacturing of plastics, varnishes, adhesives and industrial pipes. It's also a key ingredient in paint, but due to severe weather disruptions that have impacted states where resin is heavily produced — like Texas — resin factories remain in catch-up mode.

Heightened demand has compounded the problem, according to Rajeev Prabhakar, who specializes in chemicals, industrials and energy at the consulting firm Kearney.

"The demand grew, but we were also starting a supply from low inventory levels across the supply chain," Prabhakar told Supply Chain Dive. "Everybody had depleted their inventory when demand collapsed last year so there's not much buffer."

Prabhakar added, however, that in a few months' time, resin supply should be back to normal, assuming there aren't any significant storms that can affect the electrical grid and water supply, which are needed to make resin.

Resin shortages are leading to paint blackouts.Resin shortages are leading to paint blackouts.

Magnesium
Found in cements, glass, iron and steel, magnesium is another widely used raw material, but due to government crackdowns on carbon emissions in China, where most of the world's magnesium originates, a magnesium shortage could compromise those other product lines. During an earnings call, Alcoa Chief Financial Officer William Oplinger warned about this potential. 

"[Magnesium] shortages are a concern and our procurement team is actively working on trying to make sure that we have enough material to be able to supply our customers," Oplinger said, according to Seeking Alpha. "But shortages are our concern."

Approximately 80% of the world's magnesium supply comes from China, according to the CME Group.

Maltaco, a major aluminum producer for forging and extrusion manufacturing, told customers that the company may need to ration supplies heading into 2022 if the scarcity continues, as reported by S&P Global Platts.

Business owners who rely on these raw materials may want to take measures now to optimize their manufacturing processes or diversify their suppliers so production is as minimally affected as possible.

Consumers and business owners are lighter in the wallet as of late amid runaway costs for just about everything. With the release of a new report, buyers now have a better sense of just how much more they've been spending on their day-to-day needs.

For the month of October, the Consumer Price Index among all items (food included) rose a seasonally adjusted 6.2% compared to the same month in 2020, the Department of Labor announced recently. That marks the biggest annual increase since 1990, according to The Associated Press.

Energy, food and shelter prices all rise
The Consumer Price Index tracks the direction of merchandise costs — rising, reducing or staying put — and compares them on a monthly and year-over-year basis. In just about all segments in October, prices rose from year-ago levels, with the largest instances of growth affecting energy, shelter and food, the report showed. Prices also climbed from September, up nearly 5% for energy, 0.5% for shelter and close to 1% for food.

This latest data comes amid rising concerns related to the supply chain. Due to heavy demand and inadequate supply, prices have ratcheted higher and higher. The question is whether these pressures will wind up cooling demand so output can catch up. So far, anyway, demand remains red hot, noted Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo.

"The consumer is still going out and spending, which is why we are seeing the price gains we're seeing," House told The Associated Press.

Supply and demand pressures sent the Consumer Prices Index higher in October.Supply and demand pressures sent the Consumer Prices Index higher in October.

How long will inflation last?
Economists are at loggerheads as to how long inflation — and the resulting impacts on the supply chain — will last. Will it be more of the same heading into 2022, or will inflation cool down before long? Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, thinks the former is the more likely scenario. Speaking at a conference held by the International Settlements-South African Reserve Bank, Powell warned "supply-side constraints have gotten worse" since the pandemic began in early 2020, Vox reported. Furthermore, Powell said he anticipated "more persistent bottlenecks" and rising inflation to continue apace.

But the former chairperson of the Fed — Janet Yellen, who now serves as secretary of the treasury — is more sanguine on the matter.

"Monthly rates of inflation have fallen substantially from the spring and early summer," Yellen told CNN's State of the Union. She added that while she anticipates inflation to persist into the early portion of 2022, conditions are more likely to improve by the midpoint of next year.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden says he's monitoring the issue and is working with his administration to see what can be done to improve the situation. Biden has stated on a number of occasions that Congress' passage of his Build Back Better plan will help to unclog bottlenecks in the supply chain. More product availability will naturally lower inflationary pressures.

"Inflation hurts Americans' pocketbooks," Biden said on a visit to the Port of Baltimore, "and reversing this trend is a top priority for me."

An evenly divided Senate and disagreements among lawmakers on the overall cost of the Build Back Better plan have stalled the legislation.

Are you seeking to rely less on imports and source more locally? You're not alone. With the ports experiencing severe backups and lengthy delivery days, it comes as little surprise that businesses are diversifying their supply chains, whether by returning them to where they used to be through reshoring, or to a country that's closer to them (nearshoring). Indeed, nearly 85% of manufacturers intend to reshore within the next few years, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by Thomas. That's up from 54% in a similar survey that was performed prior to the pandemic's arrival.

While nearshoring and reshoring may help to resolve many of the issues producers continue to face in the aftermath of the coronavirus, a 2020 report shows that numerous companies were localizing their supply chains well before COVID-19 entered into the public consciousness. Indeed, according to the ReShoring Initiative, nearly 1,400 companies in 2018 alone reshored elements of their production operations. That marked the largest uptick in reshoring activity in the history of the Reshoring Initiative tracking this measure, rising 38% compared to 2017.

It's one thing to want to reshore; it's quite another to go about it effectively. Here are a few tips that can help you reshore or nearshore successfully so you can better compete with those organizations that have taken similar supply chain measures:

1. Consider turning to a nearshoring alliance for help with recruitment
A major factor that goes into nearshoring is finding labor, which can be a Herculean task when you don't know much about the host location aside from the basics. To help with this you may want to turn to a nearshoring alliance for assistance. According to Forbes, a nearshoring alliance can save you a considerable amount of time and money when it comes to finding individuals who have experience in your line of work. Additionally, it can help lower the costs of operation if you find talent in parts of the country where the cost of living is more affordable.

Reliable and clear communication is critical to nearshoring.Reliable and clear communication is critical to nearshoring.

2. Establish crystal clear communication lines
Regardless of your industry, the most important aspect of bringing your supply chains closer is ensuring that everyone is on the same page. This is particularly important if you're opting to nearshore. As noted by Future Processing, if it makes more sense to produce goods in a country that's nearby, but workers there speak a foreign language, that's bound to create problems. It's important to be mindful of this before it manifests itself by seeking potential solutions, be they through translation software, video conferencing tools or other workarounds. 

3. Let your goals determine the appropriate host country
Maybe you're not sure which nation will be your nearshoring destination. That country should be determined by what your goals or objectives are. For example, if you're looking to hire qualified workers and your industry is IT, Mexico is ideal, according to Forbes. However, if your business is engineering, the talent pool is deeper in several South American countries, such as Chile, Brazil and Argentina.

With the proper vision, preparation and planning, nearshoring or reshoring can help to bolster your supply chain and set you up for success moving forward. 

Among the food groups, meat products tend to take up the largest portion out of grocery shoppers' budgets, but due to soaring inflation, that portion is more like a chunk. From bacon to pork chops to steak to ground beef, you name the kind of meat, prices for it are climbing and showing no signs of slowing. In fact, according to estimates from research firm IRI, ribeye — one of the more popular cuts — costs 40% more today than it did last year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

It raises the question: Why? Is it because people are buying more meat, thereby increasing demand, or are upward price pressures attributable to limited availability, making it a supply-side problem? As is often the case, it's a combination of factors, but at the heart of the issue is COVID-19 and the shutting down of the economy that sent the supply chain into a tailspin.

During the early days of the pandemic, several beef production and meat packing factories operated with skeleton crews or shut down entirely. While most are now back up and running, they're not quite back to normal, according to Michael Swanson, chief agriculture economist at Wells Fargo. Speaking to Quartz, Swanson noted that many of the people who used to work at these facilities have since gotten other jobs. Labor shortages have led to fewer workers, and as a result, slower output.

The cost of ribeye is up 40%.The cost of ribeye is up 40%.

'It's a stack of things'
It's also costing more to raise livestock. With the exception of those that are grass fed, cows' diets are primarily composed of corn and soy, and the price levels for both of these staple crops are higher today than a year ago.

Peter Bolstorff, an executive at the Association for Supply Chain Management, told the online publication it's the blending of all of these factors that are to blame.

"Anytime you see price increases like that, it's never one thing, it's always a stack of things," Bolstorff said. "[When] these prices go up that fast … usually it's because you've got demand shocks and supply shocks stacking on themselves at the same time."

Indeed, since corn is used for a variety of other purposes aside from feeding livestock, that too is contributing to steeper meat prices. Ethanol, a corn derivative used in gasoline, costs 50% more on a year to date basis than during the same period in 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported from Chicago Board of Trade data.

Drought takes a toll on farmers' operations
Another contributing factor is poor crop yield. Swanson told Quartz that severe droughts in the western portion of the country — which is home to a large percentage of the livestock eventually purchased by grocery shoppers — have forced farmers to rein the number of animals they raise because they don't have as much food to feed them. 

How long will meat prices remain elevated? Economists have differing opinions. Swanson said consumers can expect it to last throughout 2022 and perhaps into 2023. The speed with which the cost of meat normalizes will largely hinge on corn and soybean prices. In short, when they go down, meat should follow suit.

The ongoing supply chain disruptions affecting just about every industry are bringing new meaning to the term "holiday rush." Typically, that phrase is associated with the breakneck speed with which this time of year flies by; before you know it, Dec. 25th has arrived.

But with the port logjams still an issue and the unknown nature of when the bottlenecks will straighten out, "holiday rush" these days refers to buyers making their under-the-tree purchases well before the season ramps up so they aren't met with out-of-stock signs on store shelves. Even the White House concedes that limited supply may force some presents to arrive well after Santa Claus and his reindeer have returned to North Pole.

However, major parcel and package delivery service providers are confident they'll be able to get merchandise to the appropriate destinations in a timely manner, so long as there are items available to bring to people hoping for a pre-Christmas Day arrival. In short, they'll be ready, but whether the supply chain will be is an open question.

UPS hiring more than 100,000 seasonal employees
One provider that's prepared is UPS. Every year, UPS spends a great deal of time securing more seasonal hires, but in light of the supply chain dilemmas that are bound to create unpredictability, the shipper is looking to hire well over 100,000 seasonal employees, which is more than normal. These temporary employees will remain aboard with the company through January 2022.

"We're preparing for another safe, record peak holiday season," said Nando Cesarone, president of operations at UPS. "With COVID-19 continuing to impact Americans, our services are more important than ever. We plan to hire more than 100,000 people for seasonal jobs, many of whom will have an offer in hand within 30 minutes of applying. Our seasonal hires will help us provide the most reliable service in the industry, just like we did last year."

Parcel carriers like UPS say they're ready to get packages where they need to be for the holidays.Parcel carriers like UPS say they're ready to get packages where they need to be for the holidays.

But what may prevent UPS from increasing productivity is if the freight isn't there for employees to deliver. Speaking to Supply Chain Dive, Bill Seward, who serves as UPS' president of worldwide sales and solutions, said that the biggest unknown at this point is inventory. The company is doing everything it can to get products out to the people and "run a flexible network," but if inventory remains lean, then there's not much it can do.

FedEx made the most of National Hiring Day
FedEx is going to similar measures to ensure there are plenty of people who can deliver whatever is there for them to ship. On September 23, National Hiring Day, FedEx hosted several job fairs around the country so those newly recruited will be in place and trained to handle higher volumes.

But as with its rival carrier, FedEx's readiness will be for naught if the supply chain remains constrained. Yet in the spirit of the season, retailers remain optimistic hat everything will work out. Organizations like Lowes, Walmart and Samsung have all made commitments to expanding their service hours and remaining at the ports for longer periods so backlogs are cleared out. For these reasons, according to National Retail Federation Vice President Jon Gold, "many [retailers] feel they will have a better holiday season than last year."

Will the supply chain deliver a Christmas miracle? As it always does, time will tell.

While some people are more vulnerable to the health consequences of the coronavirus, from an economic standpoint, COVID-19 has been an equal opportunity offender. In short, just about every industry has experienced supply chain disruptions in one form or another. Some have been severe, others not quite as substantial. Indeed, the majority of businesses in manufacturing, construction, retail and wholesale say the disruptions are ongoing and frequent, according to polling data compiled by the White House. This means not even major organizations — with more assets than others — have been able to sidestep the supply delays and dilemmas.

But with most household name franchises and retail chains able to navigate the pandemic (mostly) successfully, what's their secret? If you ask their executive officers and stakeholders, size matters.

Greater visibility yields better predictability
In a September conference call, Lowe's CEO David Denton noted that the company's supply chain is in a better position today than back in 2020. Denton said that this was attributable to larger orders and better visibility into what product offerings it sells with the greatest frequency. Being armed with this information gave Lowe's suppliers the information they needed to make "bigger runs in their lines," Denton said.

He also attributed Lowe's supply chain successes to the company's vast footprint.

"I do think the scale and breadth of our supply chain and the size of our import business is at a level that allows us to, one, get capacity into those channels; and two, negotiate, I'll say, the best price possible, given the conditions that are happening right now," Denton explained.

He added that the company's ability to get a read on customer demand enabled Lowe's to identify buying patterns and ultimately order more product in advance of the shopping rush. According to Lowe's website, the home improvement franchise has over 2,200 stores in North America, including 142 in Texas alone.

When it comes to supply chain performance and navigation, major retailers agree: Size matters.When it comes to supply chain performance and navigation, major retailers agree: Size matters.

Levi's CEO: We have 'a competitive advantage'
In a separate earnings call, Levi Strauss's CEO made a similar observation. Chip Bergh said the jeans company's reach and name recognition gave it a "competitive advantage" relative to other clothing suppliers, noting that Levi's has sourcing resources in approximately two dozen countries. 

"We did this to avoid concentrations to be less exposed to bottlenecks in production capacity, like what's going on currently with Vietnam, where our exposure is less than 4% of our global volume," Bergh said.

Tobias Schoenherr, a professor of purchasing and supply chain management at Michigan State University, told Supply Chain Dive that generally speaking, larger companies do tend to perform better amid supply chain disruptions. This is due to their influence and ability to leverage more resources. Additionally, because they bring ongoing business to suppliers, they tend to get preferential treatment in comparison to independent operations.

At the same time, though, being a small-business owner has its perks. Schoenherr added that the entrepreneurial spirit that so many entrepreneurs have enables them to be strategic, think critically and make quicker changes in instances where one strategy doesn't go quite as planned.

Still supply chain experts urge small-business owners to diversify their suppliers as much as possible so they aren't reliant on one and can pivot when products are unavailable. 



Over 20 years ago, I worked for a company in Totowa, NJ.  The company transported body parts to operating rooms, provided up-to-the-minute arrival information.  This was done with the Nextel Push-To-Talk cellular technology when it was brand new to the market.  One day, the latest advertising brochure was dropped on my desk; I gave it a quick glance over and there it was, 1-866-LOGISTIC!  The company didn’t own that number! I walked past the CEO’s Secretary and quietly entered his office and informed him of the marketing error. What followed was the entrance of the marketing staff; heads were going to roll!  100,000 advertising packets were mailed out to be received up and down the east coast … The CEO yelled at me to locate the number and buy it.  I inquired to the CEO "what are you willing to spend to obtain the number??"

This began a sleuthing adventure - what company owned the number and more importantly what would it cost to purchase it?

After 3 days of phone calls and following leads (this was pre- security days, no pin codes and 2FA didn’t exist yet) I found that it was owned by a beeper/paging company.  The number had no meaning (866-564-4784 = 866-LOGISTIc) to the paging company after I explained what had occurred.  The person who would be issued that pager would not be happy by the number of pages received and they would not be for them… The purchase price was $500…

So how did this industry of “vanity” begin?

Toll-free service was introduced by AT&T in 1966 (US intrastate) and 1967 (US interstate) as an alternative to operator-assisted collect calling.  This Inward Wide Area Telephone Service (InWATS) allowed calls to be made directly from anywhere in a predefined area by dialing the prefix 1‑800- and a seven-digit number.

The system initially provided no support for Automatic Number Identification (Caller ID) and no record to the quantity of calls, instead requiring subscribers to obtain expensive fixed-rate lines which included some number of hours of inbound calling from a "band" of one or several U.S. states or Canadian provinces. Early toll-free 800 calling lacked the complex routing features offered with modern toll-free service. After competitive carriers could compete with AT&T in establishing toll-free service, the three-digit exchange following the 800 prefixes was linked to a specific destination carrier and area code; the number itself corresponded to specific telephone switching offices and trunk groups. All calls went to one central destination; there was no means to place a toll-free call to another country.

Despite its limitations (and the relatively high cost of long distance during the 1970-1990), the system was adequate for the needs of large volume users such as hotels, chains, airlines, and cars for hire firms which used it to build a truly national presence.

AT&T engineer Roy P. Weber from Bridgewater, New Jersey patented a 'Data Base Communication Call Processing Method' which was deployed by AT&T in 1982. The called number was an index into a database, allowing a 'Toll-Free Call' or '800 Call' to be directed anywhere. This feature and other advances made it possible for AT&T marketing analyst Dodge Cepeda from Bedminster, New Jersey to propose the introduction of providing 800 Toll-Free Service to small and medium-size business customers on a nationwide basis

A toll-free vanity number is a custom number or a mnemonic which is easy to remember; it spells and means something, or it contains an easily recognized numeric pattern. An easily remembered number has branding value as a direct response tool and is extremely popular, during the mid-1970’s the carriers quickly realized they could charge a hefty fee for specialty/vanity toll free number (ex: 800-FLOWERS). 

There is a fee structure is for the vanity number each month and a per minute charge for each call received.  A non-vanity toll free number in the 1980’s ranged from 59.95 to $500 and the rate per minute to have the call ring in your business was 6-10 cents a minute.  Compare the costs to today – an average AT&T toll free number per month is $4.95 and the rate per minute is around .014.  The most sought vanity numbers can be purchased on the open market (more of this later in the article>)


What are the Toll-Free Area Codes?
The toll-free number area codes in use today: 800, 833, 844, 855, 866, 877, and 888 and 833 was the last one added in May 2017

 Do any of the toll-free area codes operate beyond the continental U.S.?

844 is a multi-country area code rea code that operates in the North American Numbering Plan: USA, Canada, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guam, Jamaica, Monserrat, North Mariana.

Do Toll Free numbers still have value?     The answer is, “it depends.”
From the user cost savings perspective – NO, not really.  When calls were 6+ cents a minute (25 cents per minute from a payphone) if I could call a business and they paid for my inquiry – yes… there was a value of “wanting my business” and a savings to my pocketbook.
Now with free unlimited cellular minutes or per minute rates on landlines at just above a penny a minute…these free calls aren’t “necessary” as a value save for the consumer.

However, a vanity number is brand building, it unifies messaging and broadens the company exposure. 

  • 1-800-WALGREENS
  • 1-888-BEST-BUY
  • 1-888-NEW-HOME
  • 1-800- PET-MEDS
  • 1-877-USA-ROOF
  • 1-800-GOFEDEX

  Toll Free numbers may be catchy, thus remembered without being written down:

  • 1-800-HURT - NOW
  • 1-800-GIANT-MEN
  • 1-800-GOT-JUNK

Toll Free Numbers may just have a single word in their number to help users remember their purpose:

Seminole Casino in Brighton – 866-2- CASINO

Jenna Choctaw Pines Casino – 855-638- LUCK


 Today Vanity numbers don’t need to be toll-free and can be purchased on the open market.  (8/11/2021)                   

  • 279-999-9999 – is listed for $75,000
  • 320-222-2222 is available for $50,000
  • 203-888-0000 is listed for $15,000
  • 206-ABC-DEFG – is listed for $15,000
  • 209-REALTOR- is listed for $15,000

All advertising has a price. A vanity number can be considered a visual logo, it can be spoken or sung (used in a jingle), spells a name for easy remembrance, or perform a service, a quick direct connection. The value of using a vanity number (toll free or not) is a strategic business decision and should be considered carefully based upon the “reach” goals of your business.


At Corcentric we specialize in sourcing initiatives/data analytics across many business sectors (including Marketing) within an organization to reduce costs/streamline efficiencies and reduce manual labor.  For additional information please reach out: twankoff@Corcentric.com