2021 Wrap-Up: Our Top Supply Chain Stories of the Year
In 2020, "pivoting" was at the center of most industry narratives. Companies pivoted to e-commerce, mask making, etc. In 2021, we've probably dedicated the most attention to the ongoing supply chain issues that have come as a result of the pandemic.
If we had to assign a topic of the year, the supply chain would undoubtedly be the winner. With that in mind, here's a recap of our coverage throughout the year, focusing on evolving issues, new pandemic-related problems and solutions that professionals have found to keep the wheels turning.
It almost feels quaint looking back at the beginning of the year when so many issues companies are dealing with now were only only beginning to come about. In this longform story, we looked at how COVID was causing shipping delays, production issues and price increases that would cause ongoing problems the industry is still dealing with today.
We spoke with distributors and suppliers about how supply chain issues were creating widespread burnout that, in turn, was only making those issues worse. We looked at what industry professionals can do to address the problem and why it was important that they do so.
If there's any phrase people used more than "pivot," it was "new normal." Part of that new normal in business includes price increases. Mark Jenkins provided some insight on how promotional products distributors can help their clients understand the complexities of the supply chain, and how to protect profit margins when the cost of doing business goes up.
China's "Zero COVID" policy means that when outbreaks occur, the affected area comes to a grinding halt. When that particular area is a major manufacturing or shipping hub, it creates worldwide problems. In September, the city of Xiamen was placed under lockdown, resulting in factories canceling promotional products orders.
As the U.S. economy recovers from 2020 (and 2021), promo companies found difficulty in hiring for positions originally vacated due to layoffs during the pandemic and new positions created to keep up with growing demand. At a time where so many businesses were recovering from a down 2020, this was a problem that puzzled business owners and economists alike.
At the beginning of the year, before vaccines were made available to the public, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach recorded hundreds of cases of COVID among dockworkers, forcing slowdowns and ships waiting days for access to the port. This set an early high-water mark for the year, so to speak, but that record number of waiting ships was later topped.
In addition to COVID-related supply chain issues, ethical dilemmas like sourcing cotton from the Xinjiang province of China created even more headaches. Critics say that the Chinese government is mistreating the local Uighur ethnic group, including placing them in forced labor camps. Xinjiang is China's major cotton hub, and its products are used by high profile companies like H&M, as well as for clients such as the Tokyo Olympics.
Check back in tomorrow for the next 2021 wrap-up. Thanks for reading!