Stranded in transit: Supply chain issues leave traders scrambling


EPHRATA – How difficult are the global shipping and supply issues right now?

“We had to get creative,” said Matt Moore, one of the owners of Moore Furniture in Ephrata, amid the dishwashers, refrigerators and stoves he sells.

It denotes an exposed dishwasher without a control panel. A customer who bought the same model called with a problem, and rather than let that customer wait the three to five months it takes for spares to arrive, Moore said he had simply cannibalized from leaving. from the floor model – now “a zombie machine,” which will wait several months for its own repair – to fix the customer’s dishwasher.

“We serve what we sell,” he said. “It’s less painful for me to deal with a bad soil model. I can still sell it, but at least I solved this person’s problem.

“I don’t know what other places are doing, but we’re trying to find creative solutions where we can,” Moore added.

Arrears at major ports and shortages of materials create a shortage of all kinds of goods across the country.

According to Janelle Guthrie, director of communications for the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), a trade group that represents construction companies and contractors, the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that the state’s Building Code Council has issued emergency rules authorizing the issuance of temporary occupation permits. issued for new homes, even if heat pumps – the exterior of air conditioners – have not been installed.

“We see a lot of supply issues. One in particular is heat pumps, ”Guthrie said.

Guthrie said a recent letter from Tacoma’s HVAC manufacturer and distributor Gensco Inc. to Hayden Homes and municipal building services highlighted the nature of the problem, with the company saying it currently has more than 20 years. 000 heat pumps out of stock.

“We normally have 20,000 units in stock and 10,000 on order. Now demand exceeds supply, ”the company wrote in the letter.

As winter approaches, it does not matter so much, as there is no shortage of internal heating units and even homes without external air conditioners will be sufficiently heated during the cold winter to come.

Guthrie said, however, that there are other significant shortages, such as electrical panels, wires, windows conforming to the new state building code, transformers, septic pumps, water heaters and appliances. plumbing.

Some of those shortages are related to a lack of equipment to meet new state building standards for things like windows and fuse boxes, Guthrie said. But some of the issues are caused by the same supply and shipping issues that lead to so many other kinds of shortages.

“One of our builders said his plumber has to buy parts and accessories from eBay, and some electricians do too,” she said.

Moore said his business has stayed ahead of supply issues, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of planning, and it’s unpredictable what issues will arise next. Moore said the furniture makers and home appliance makers he works with have had difficulty obtaining raw materials like foam, glass, and now semiconductors, making it difficult to manufacture the finished products. and their shipping.

“You have specific material shortages that suddenly come up that nobody anticipates and it lasts for a few months and creates bottlenecks everywhere,” he said.

On complex products like kitchen appliances, Moore said even the absence of something small can make things difficult for a manufacturer.

“The more complex your item, like a stove or dishwasher, it has several hundred components and several types of raw materials and probably 100 subcontractors that go into making the product,” he said. “If you miss one, you don’t finish the product. “

Moore also said the mess of global shipping, especially on the west coast of the United States, where empty containers pile up in ports, is making matters worse. This has prompted a number of companies to reduce their product lines to higher value and bigger items, to tighten logistics lines or, in the case of appliance maker Whirlpool, to rely more in addition to air freight to bypass bottlenecks on tracks, ships and railways, Moore said.

As a small, family-owned furniture and appliance retailer, Moore said he struggles to stay ahead of supply issues and expects things not to improve. before at least 2023.

This is especially bad for anyone who needs a replacement device right away.

“You don’t want to be the person who says my refrigerator is dead; I need one today, ”Moore said. “I can help you, but few places can. But I might not have what you need.

” We are doing our best. I try to keep things in stock, but it’s getting harder and harder to do, ”he said. “It’s a challenge.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be contacted at [email protected]

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