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Supply Chains, Inflation, and Mother Nature are Making Things Difficult

Supply chain, inflation, and environmental issues are very real, and they’re hurting many of us. We’re paying more for staple things such as eggs, butter, and gas. I’ve been told to expect shortages on several everyday items.

A local farmer I know who delivers milk to his customers has been forced to increase his price to $7.00 a gallon due to the drought, which caused hay shortages. It’s like the supply chain, economy, and Mother Nature got together and decided to test us.

Not only is it increasingly difficult to find simple things and expensive when you do, but many of us are facing the same struggles in our business lives.

One of my responsibilities at my day job is to make certain our inventory levels are maintained. That means searching for the best prices on material, ordering the items, checking them in, charging them to individual jobs, reconciling the inventory report once a month, and making sure our crews have the proper products to do their jobs well.

In recent months, I’ve had difficulty finding suppliers with my required items in stock. I called and spoke with one of my oldest merchants a couple weeks ago, attempting to place an order. I needed three things – a very specific type of weatherstrip, tyvek suits, and caulking fingers. He had none of the above and no idea when he’d be able to get any of it.

He explained that a big part of the problem is the tariffs on goods made overseas and the other part is inflation here in the United States. His United States suppliers for the above-mentioned products went out of business, and he can’t afford to order products from China because he would be paying three to five times what the products cost just a couple of years ago. As frustrated as I am, he is far more so because he’s not able provide the goods his customers need. I fear he may soon go out of business himself.

We do shop locally, but we have been unable to find those products in the particular varieties we need. I was able to find a similar weatherstrip online, but it’s $50.00 a set, whereas we were paying $15.00 a set from our supplier before all of the supply chain issues. That is simply not an acceptable price increase. We are either going to be forced to start using alternative products that don’t work as well, supposing we can find some, or find different suppliers.

I was able to find the tyvek suits on Amazon and ordered a couple cases for the guys to try. Tyvek suits are white disposable coveralls that the guys wear when they’re under a house hanging insulation or in working in an attic.

The guys cleaned out our local hardware store of caulking fingers, which the store has discontinued. The hunt for good weatherstrip is still on. I’m exploring home improvement stores, online vendors, and wholesalers. The guys and I would dearly love for things to return to normal soon.

I’m attending a state-wide meeting this week with representatives from the other Missouri community action agencies. I plan to ask around and find out where others purchase their material and if they’re having the same issues. I’m also going to find out what they use on their jobs if it’s different than our norm.

Is this our new normal, or will things ever go back to pre-pandemic levels?

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