One More Reason For Shortages

David Trammel's picture

When I worked a few years back (quit Oct 2019) for a large company that needed a dozen or more trucks for daily delivery, we always had a problem getting semi truck drivers. That company shipped over a million pounds of metal a week, so it was essential to have experienced drivers who knew how to handle large heavy loads in tight urban situations. Those drivers don't come cheap. The situation has only gotten worse, with drivers quitting long haul in droves, and those who do stay being able to demand higher wages and more favorable work conditions. Think restaurant workers on steroids. Its one of the reasons that has been mentioned is why we are seeing repeated and unexpected shortages in stores, the lack of long haul drivers.

I came across this post from well know science fiction author C.J. Cherryh today which points to an additional factor:

"You want to know WHY we're having shortages in just about everything post 2020? You want to know why parts are scarce and supply of finished things goes short in consequence?
It's not just China, friends. Remember the Thor Tool decision, when they decided to tax books in warehouse, so there could be no more one-time economical print runs, just little ones? Remember the theory that there would be no more warehouses of anything, that companies would limit production to demand, and instead of warehousing, would just have product crossing the country in trucks, lots and lots of trucks? Well, those chickens have all come home to roost. Companies HAVE no warehoused backlog of parts and units to shove into trucks to send to you. THAT'S why we have shortages. Our tax policy and our corporate profit-is-paramount planning has thrown us into shortages that did not need to happen."

The comments on her original post are very informative:

I expect that odd shortages and disruptions will only continue and get worse. This points to an important part of your resilience and adaptability, learning how to deal with the lack of important items. Whether you stock up with extra parts and equipment, or learn how to modify and adapt existing supplies to new needs, we will all be dealing with this for a long time as society heads down the Long Descent.

This also points out the problem with "Just In Time" manufacturing, a philosophy that unfortunately has taken over not only manufacturing but life in general. Why have extra toilet paper in your closet when you can just run down to the grocery store when you are almost out? Well, until there is none at the store. People, through their employers have learned that its "good" to not stockpile supplies. Its good to be "efficient" and not spend money on things you don't need right now. The problem with that way of thinking is summed up in this comment:

"Efficiency" is the enemy of redundancy and safety. It's not "efficient" to have a snow shovel or blanket in your trunk in NY, but you sure as shit are glad you carted it around all winter when you need it.

Efficiency is not your friend.

At a machine shop I worked for, we had a sign on the wall. It was a triangle with three points labeled, "Fast, Cheap, Well Made", and in the center it said "Pick Two". We used to point this out to customers. A lot! You can have any two of those options but never all three.

What we all have to learn, as collapse cause disruptions and shortages, is what is really important, resilience.

This is yet another reminder for all of us to maintain deep, well-stocked pantries.
What's so crazy about today is this used to be common knowledge!
It's so much easier to stop at the store every day than it is to plan ahead and stock up.

I believe the Covid-19 shortages and panics (like over toilet paper) would have been easier to cope with if most people kept a two-week supply of paper goods and canned food on hand at all times. They wouldn't have gone away. There still would have been shortages.
The difference is fewer people wouldn't have panicked on day one and stripped the stores.

The moral is stock up on what you know you must have. Rotate your stock. First in, first out. Cool, dry, airy, and in the dark.

David Trammel's picture

More on the supply change problems:

"‘Just Get Me a Box’: Inside the Brutal Realities of Supply Chain Hell"

It would be nice if supply chain managers and corporate CEOs would finally realize that having your production facility in the country you do business in, is more resilient to disruptions and better for your profit margin, than having it in the country with the least labor costs. They won't though. The people interviewed in the article seem to think this is just a one off temporary disruption. Climate change and the affects of Collapse are going to add insecurity to the supply change that is here to stay.

Just wondering what kinds of very specific things you've noticed shortages in recently?

Here's a few I've noticed in the past few months:
25watt ceramic reptile heat emitters
15 and 25 watt incandescent aquarium lighting
mourning geckos
harp strings
oatmeal 2.5kg western family brand
assorted food items more generally, not enough to be a big problem but plenty of noticeable holes in the shelves
artistic wire
80mm hair barrette blanks
kid's hiking boots in some sizes (though this may be normal)

kma's picture

Some odd shortages noticed
-paring knives
-generic cat food not being shipped by WalM* anymore, brand name shippable. I always thought it was ridiculous they shipped such heavy, cheap stuff for free but looks like that is ending.
-wood fencing was impossible to find over the summer, haven't checked lately since we're waiting until next summer
-school uniforms -took 8 weeks to arrive instead of 2, school had to advise wearing plain clothes in school colors since so many people couldn't get items,
-Lemon Juice, store down to last two bottles

Half and half. God only knows why but for weeks, I couldn't get any. Even more strangely, the light cream, heavy cream, and whipping cream were gone too, along with those dreadful fat-free facsimiles. Yet, at the same time, it was possible to choose from a plethora of 100% artificial cream substitutes and those vegetable-based vegan substitutes so it couldn't have been the containers. Perhaps it was that real dairy can't be made and stored a year in advance in some warehouse?

They're rationing toilet paper and paper towels again at the local grocery.

Canned cat food is .... spotty is the best way to describe it. If you aren't fussy about brand, there's always some. However, now that we have four (!) cats, I'm buying canned cat food in large cases. Sometimes they're on the shelf, sometimes not.

Cleaning vinegar disappears for months and then reappears.

What this is doing is making me buy more when I see it, to keep my pantry full.

I think I prefer lemon juice better, but oh well. It was there in the right size at the right time, and it's still getting used up just fine.

Corrach-the-Blue's picture

White vinegar seems to always be empty at my local grocery store. I’ve been grabbing a bottle any time i see it now.