Arriving just in time for summer, a familiar story; the household goods industry will have a difficult time over the summer months meeting consumer demand. While COVID-19 impacted how household goods suppliers had to perform their services, the need for moving was still great, plus increased levels of restrictions such as mask mandates, cross-border travel restrictions, quarantine periods, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages, etc., provided even more hurdles. The list is extensive regarding additional burdens household goods suppliers need to overcome, and consequently, we are seeing a sharp increase in fees for services.
Internationally, global supply chains have been impacted by the war in Ukraine which was already suffering due to Covid lockdowns. With China implementing additional lockdowns including Shanghai, the world’s biggest container port, this has only exasperated the problem. More than 8 million residents in Shanghai are still banned from leaving their residences and this means people that run logistics are not on the job. According to Project44, which tracks shipment times, the delays between China and the major US and European ports quadrupled since late March. According to Daejin Lee, an associate director at S&P Global Market Intelligence, the situation in China will push global inflation higher this year. Last year, inflation was driven by two factors: supply shortages of key parts led to supply chain bottlenecks; and record-high container freight rates. Both problems continue into 2022, and the war in Ukraine will only make commodities prices rise as well.
Not only is there an international shipping problem, but there are difficulties in the US. According to the American Trucking Association, they estimate the industry is short 80,000 truck drivers, and there is a fear this number could double by 2030 as more retire from the profession. To try and remedy this problem, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill includes a three-year pilot program that would allow commercial drivers as young as 18 to drive across state lines. In most states, you need to be 21 to receive a commercial driver’s license. However, this would be a band-aid approach and is unlikely to remedy the immediate situation. In response to the shortage, companies are raising wages for truck drivers and these increases are being passed on to consumers.
How this translates to the relocation industry is that clients and employees must be extremely proactive. For example, according to the US Army and an article written by Chris Gardner, they have 36,984 soldiers that have reporting dates in 2022 during the peak summer season. Fort Sill’s property supervisor, Shirley Castle, stated, “Soldiers and civilians need to contact the local transportation office as soon as orders are received and keep their chain of command informed of any issues or challenges…waiting until 30 days or less before the move to contact the local transportation office could result in non-availability of DoD approved moving companies.”
The way to address all of this is to understand the situation and over-communicate to all involved in the logistics and household goods moving process. This includes clients and their transferring employees by implementing the following:
- Work with a knowledgeable Relocation Management Company (RMC)that can navigate these challenges.
- Plan for more shipment time, especially international moves.
- 30 days’ notice is the minimum; try and plan well in advance.
- Change to air freight versus sea freight if feasible and affordable.
- Consider providing a furniture allowance rather than moving furniture.
At WHR Group, Inc. (WHR), our Supply Chain Management department builds and maintains relationships with quality network providers. We continue to monitor this ever-changing situation and its impact on the supply chain and logistics. Through our extensive and well-vetted supply chain network, we can find the right providers to navigate each employee relocation on a case-by-case basis.