Supply chain

Persistent global supply chain challenges resulting in months of waiting for devices

When Amy Studholme visited The Brick shortly after Boxing Day last year, she wouldn’t have imagined that almost a year later she would still be without the devices she ordered.

Studholme had ordered a refrigerator, stove and dishwasher. The stove arrived within a few weeks, she said, but turned out to be faulty; she had to pay several hundred dollars more for another that was in stock. Her dishwasher only recently arrived at the store, but now she’s waiting for her refrigerator so that she can bring both devices home at the same time.

“Basically every month the Brick told me my devices would come next month. Next month here we are in October – I am now being told November. But I’m not optimistic,” she said. . .

Studholme said she made several phone calls and even an occasional visit to the store.

“The most frustrating part is that there is no accountability on their behalf,” she said. “Every time my devices are supposed to be here, I make arrangements – then there’s a new date. “

Amy Studholme said she ordered three new devices from The Brick around Boxing Day 2020. She is still waiting for two of them. (Talia Ricci / CBC)

Studholme is among a number of customers who have told CBC News that they have been waiting for the devices ordered during the pandemic for several months at various stores.

According to the Retail Council of Canada, current global supply chain challenges are causing some retailers to report that the situation has worsened, with product delays, shortages and higher prices.

Whirlpool Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of major appliances, said it was working hard to overcome these challenges in order to continue to meet consumer demands.

Trade experts and retailers predict things will improve in 2022, but for those now waiting for home appliances, it’s a frustrating time.

Phil Saleh ordered new Maytag appliances from The Brick last October and is still waiting for his refrigerator. At the time, he was told that delivery could be delayed for a few months.

“It’s sort of from there, it was like ‘it’s going to happen in January.’ A week or two before that hour was up, they were like, ‘It’s coming in two weeks.’ “It happens in another week,” he said.

“Then it was in August. Then from August it was in 2022. So get to one year and count.”

For months, Saleh said, his family of four stuck with a mini-fridge, until someone offered to give them a fridge they were getting rid of.

“We paid a lot of money for this refrigerator that didn’t show up,” he said. “I can cancel the order, but if I were to buy a comparable refrigerator now, it would probably cost at least 30% more… because the prices have gone up.”

Like Studholme, Saleh said he was most frustrated with the lack of communication and the evolution of information.

Pandemic to blame for persistent supply chain problems

Home appliance shortages due to global supply chain issues and booming demand first emerged around the same time last year. The situation has not improved yet, said Michelle Wasylyshen, spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada.

“First of all, for a whole range of products, parts are often purchased overseas. As COVID outbreaks occur, different countries adapt different policies and this can have a severe impact on the supply chain. global sourcing, ”she said in an emailed statement.

“We saw it in China and Vietnam, where ports were closed for weeks as COVID outbreaks were dealt with. the world.”

Retailers are doing their best to stay on course for price increases, Wasylyshen said, as sales volumes have also increased, helping to offset rising supply chain costs. But for consumers, it also means some deliveries are taking longer than they would have before the pandemic.

The problem is complex, but it started when everything slowed down in March 2020, when the pandemic struck and economies around the world stalled, said Dave Johnston, professor of operations management and information systems at York University’s Schulich School of Business. in Toronto.

“This meant that the controls for everything, like home appliances, slowed down, and all of the components that go into those devices slowed down,” he said. “And then we started to come back after the vaccination was introduced – and we suddenly sped up our economy again.”

David Johnston is a professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University and director of George Weston Ltd. Center for Sustainable Supply Chains. (Gordon Hawkins)

When orders ceased last March, some of the factories that produce components for home appliances took action, such as laying off employees and stopping orders for materials, Johnston said.

“It takes time to restart them,” he said. “In our global economy, it’s very difficult to go from partying to starvation, quickly.”

Canada’s vibrant real estate market has also contributed to a surge in home appliance sales, he noted, adding another layer of demand.

Beyond manufacturing, public health measures related to COVID have also affected global shipping routes, ports where goods arrive, and facilities like warehouses.

Estimating when the supply chain will run smoothly again is “a guessing game,” said Johnston, but his prediction is that things should start to catch up again sometime in 2022 across various industries.

His advice? If you’re not desperate for a new device, it might be a good idea to wait.

The Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services said in a statement it could not comment on the possibility of a supply shortage for retail businesses because it is outside its jurisdiction.

“Under the Consumer Protection Act, when a consumer orders a product or service, it must be delivered within 30 days of the delivery or start date. If it is not delivered from here there the consumer has the right to withdraw from the contract at any time before the product is delivered or the service begins, ”said a spokesperson.

Customers can also file complaints with Consumer Protection Ontario, the spokesperson said.

“A very difficult time,” says retailer

CBC News has contacted The Brick for comment and has not received a response.

Whirlpool Corporation, which operates both the Whirlpool and Maytag brands, said in an emailed statement that its 15,000 plant workers in the United States are working tirelessly to meet the needs of consumers.

But he noted that implementing security measures to make factories safe from COVID can impact manufacturing lines and production rates.

“Our factories have experienced a few brief production disruptions related to the pandemic, including shortages of components or materials, but overall they have remained operational throughout this difficult period,” the statement said.

Josh Luftspring, left, and Sam Zahler are co-owners of Best Brand Appliance in North York. They say it has been difficult to communicate product delays to their customers as they often do not receive accurate information on when shipments arrive. (Talia Ricci / CBC)

Josh Luftspring, co-owner of Best Brand Appliance in the North York area of ​​Toronto, says the management of these delays has been uninterrupted.

“These are very difficult times,” he said. “The demand is very strong in Toronto. People now see their house as their castle, they want to renovate it and feel more comfortable in their surroundings.

Soaring demand and product shortages across the world have been a recipe for disaster, he said.

“If the supply chain can’t get semiconductors, chips, chemicals for insulation in refrigerators, everything flows – customers can’t get their product, there are delays. It’s becoming a bit of a nightmare. ”

Luftspring said his company does its best to communicate all information to customers, but it is not always accurate because information from its suppliers is not always accurate.

Its sales staff are now telling customers to put their old appliances away when they start renovations – not to throw them away or sell them online. “Keep them as a backup,” he said, “because unfortunately our dates are not exact.”

Luftspring and his team are hopeful that production will be fully restored and run smoothly again in 2022. In the meantime, he also encourages customers to be patient with everyone in the industry.

“I hope there is light at the end of the tunnel… We are struggling, our competitors are struggling and our suppliers are struggling. “

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