In an effort to help explain why our metal panel shipments are delayed, and why some products take longer than others, we’ve put together a short explanation of how worldwide shipping issues affect our metal panels, and so much more.
Not just Metal Panels, Virtually Every Industry Has Shipping Problems
It goes without saying, the last year has tested the consumer’s patience like none other. Unfortunately, many experts around the globe say our supply-line chaos is just getting started. What it means is products across all industries will continue to be back-ordered, indefinitely.
If you’ve been frustrated by sold out products and overdue deliveries – you’re not alone. And it’s not over. Shipping turmoil is affecting consumers, retail outlets, manufacturers, and distributors globally.
Why? What’s Going On?
For the last half-century, the shipping industry appeared to be clockwork. Now and then, a big Pacific storm would cast freighters off-course, or an Atlantic hurricane put a port or two out of commission. Or, an occasional ship captain might plug up the Suez Canal. Every time, large shipments would be affected, but disruptions were somewhat localized.
Not this time.
In March 2020, the quick spread of the pandemic brought our planet to a standstill. Remember the haunting photos of empty streets and vacant workplaces? That’s when it all started. Ever since then, the world’s been a rolling wave of lockdowns and outbreaks. One country might be business-as-usual, while next door’s bracing against the latest outbreak.
The trouble, too, is that nothing you buy is just one thing. A metal roofing panel, for instance, isn’t “one thing.” Even the panel’s paint comes from dozens of ingredients, all sourced internationally, all sent via ships overseas. Each one brings more potential disruption.
A Glass Half Empty: A Shipping Hypothetical
Close your eyes and imagine all the actual people involved in every item you buy or own. Take the water glass you most recently drank from…
- The process starts when mining raw materials somewhere across the globe. That could be chalk, soda ash, sand, salt or salt cake, etc.
- After that, a truck driver or a ship captain takes it to a processing plant where the raw materials are processed and made ready for production.
- Then once again, after it is processed, that material is transported to the next destination – the furnace. Once it is molten glass and ready for fabrication it goes to the next phase.
- Next up, a slew of people and equipment become involved in fabrication & distribution – forming the glass, polishing it, packaging it, putting it on a new truck, then a ship, over the ocean, to your local store, where sales staff help you in purchasing it.
Every step of that process requires specialized equipment. From mining equipment to transportation to furnaces to computers for inventory tracking, and so on. And not limited to a drinking glass, this is the case – for every product.
And in every case in every product, the process can be stopped cold when somewhere, a location becomes locked down for non-essential services.
And even one of those processes restarting because they got a local “all clear” doesn’t mean any of the other phases resumed operations, further complicating the whole chain.
How does this relate to a metal panel?
Whether we like it or not, we don’t control other countries, states, counties, or cities. Wherever an outbreak or work stoppage occurs, we at Absolute Steel can’t do a thing about it. We may use 100% American steel, but what about all the machinery, equipment, and materials required to mine or produce that steel?
Each of our panels, besides the steel involved in the bare panel, requires a lot of specialized chemicals and paint to provide the protective surface. Each ingredient in the paint process requires its own production and transport process. A stoppage or shortage in any ONE of these ingredients will affect the availability of the entire panel.
What happens when circuitry fails on a huge digger that needs to be replaced with a Japanese microchip that suddenly takes two months to reach the mine, not the week it once took? Those eight weeks of lost productivity can’t be undone.
Overtime and hard work can’t compensate for failing to receive supplies critical to fabrication.
Delays at every stage of production have undone our industrial world in the last 18 months. In fact, even microchip availability is taking a toll globally, as only a handful of manufacturers make them. The shortage of chips worldwide has already created ripple effects few could have imagined. Source.
But That’s Not All – We need People!
As if the pandemic staffing challenges and the supply issues weren’t enough, there’s also a growing “seafarer” shortage – all those folks working massive shipping lines. From the guys who swab the deck to the captains that plot the trans-oceanic journeys, the marine industry is dangerously low on qualified staff.
There’s no point in filling a freighter for shipping half-a-world away if there’s no team to pilot the ship. When the pandemic ends, staffing shortages will persist because so many elite mariners will retire in the next decade, but shipping volumes will increase. In fact, in 2021, industry watchdogs reported that nearly 90,000 more seafarers would be required internationally by 2026 just to keep the world’s ships afloat. Source.
Costco is renting three container ships and thousands of containers to work around this issue.
You’re Not Alone – We’re Tired of Waiting Too
It all spells out a complicated new era of shipping, one that companies around the world are working hard to improve – but we’ve got a tough sailing before we reach smoother seas.
Believe us – we’d like nothing more than to wow you with fast delivery. The faster we get your building materials out to you, the faster you get to work. We understand that our supplies play an important role in creating well-paid temporary jobs in towns all across the country. We get it.
We promise, we’ll do what we can to get things to you as fast as possible. But so much is outside our control. As frustrating as it is, all we can do is wait and keep you updated on progress.