Manufacturing increased in May for the 12th straight month following the economic contraction of April 2020, according to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). That’s a powerful statement about the strength of the economy, but the ISM report wasn’t all good news. Manufacturing plants are waiting longer and longer to get the materials they need. The average wait time is now 85 days, the longest since ISM began keeping tabs in 1987. That leaves lots of unhappy customers clamoring for finished merchandise as their already-shallow inventories dwindle.
There are several powerful forces at work. Post-COVID demand is sky-high, gas and therefore shipping is expensive, competition for labor is fierce and prices are rising as inflation continues to tick up.
Not all industries are feeling that kind of pinch, and those that are aren’t feeling it equally. The following is a list of a half-dozen products that are in especially tight supply thanks to supply-chain wrinkles that the manufacturing sector still hasn’t been able to iron out.
Last updated: July 5, 2021
Whether you’re considering a DIY home makeover or you plan on calling in the pros, you should expect high prices and delays into 2022, according to USA Today. Big-ticket home goods like appliances are in tight supply, as is vinyl siding, windows and doors and — most consequentially by far — lumber.
Things are so bad that officials in hurricane states like Florida are urging residents to order storm-prep materials like impact glass and plywood now — it’s expected to be an active storm season. The problem is that delays are pushing orders back three to five months, and the hurricanes will have passed by then.
One of the biggest headaches currently plaguing global manufacturing is a worldwide shortage of the semiconductor chips that breathe life into just about everything in the modern world — but nowhere is the pain for acute than in the auto industry. Modern cars can’t function without chips, but since computers and other electronic devices are usually first in line, the auto industry falls on the low end of the totem pole.
By mid-June, trouble in the semiconductor segment had delayed the production of 500,000 vehicles worldwide, including law enforcement vehicles that can’t operate without chip-driven key fobs. Some of the most popular cars in America, like the Ford Bronco and F-150, are still facing delays.
Many forces contributed to the global chip shortage, but the biggest problem was a huge spike in demand for consumer electronics during the pandemic, which put more pressure on the semiconductor industry than it could handle. Vendors today are still managing the fallout from shortages, and they’re having trouble meeting demand for their own finished products. The chip-shortage logjam means less selection and longer wait times for:
- Gaming consoles
- Wireless headphones
- Smart watches
The furniture industry is experiencing a surge in demand that is nearly unprecedented as people return to work in offices that need desks and chairs, scramble to furnish houses purchased during the hottest real estate market in years or upgrade their existing homes for the first time in 18 months.
Business is booming, but the industry has become a victim of its own success. The crush of new demand has caused choke points across the supply chain, from clogged ports to factories that can’t hire enough workers. The result is months-long manufacturing delays that have made “out of stock” the unofficial slogan of the furniture industry.
On June 23, the Idaho Mountain Express joined a growing chorus of voices expressing concern about a bottleneck of outdoor gear and supplies — big business in nature-tourism states like Idaho. The themes were familiar. COVID-driven supply-chain dysfunction collided with an avalanche of pent-up demand and the industry was caught flat-footed.
As the Mountain Express points out, consumer sales move at least one year behind the manufacturing process in the outdoor gear industry. This year’s new outdoor merchandise was manufactured during the pandemic or earlier. That made it nearly impossible to plan for two waves of record demand — one in 2020 when people took the outdoors en masse to avoid crowds and one now that restrictions are being lifted.
Companies like Mattel and Hasbro spent much of the pandemic scrambling to meet a surge in demand for toys and board games as families struggled to say sane while they quarantined. Smaller companies, however, suffered steep dropoffs as some board game sales slumped when get-togethers with outside groups became impossible.
The new year was supposed to change all that, but freight shipping costs — board games are manufactured mostly overseas — were up 300%-400% by the end of June with shipping schedules experiencing delays of four to six weeks.