Global supply chain crisis: How did we get here?

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We’ve all heard the dire warnings.

Store shelves are looking a little thinner and it’s only going to get worse.

Do your holiday shopping earlier if you want to have something under the tree this year.

And expect higher prices. Much higher.

Why is this happening?

For one, the coronavirus pandemic. In the beginning stages, just about every aspect of the global supply chain was affected by the pandemic, from manufacturing to transportation to logistics.

Factories in China, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam were hit hard by COVID-19, and many were forced to close or dramatically reduce capacity.

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As production slowed, shipping companies cut their schedules in anticipation of a downswing in demand for moving goods around the world.

But that didn’t happen. Demand for home and construction goods — like printers, office chairs, blenders, lumber, paint — skyrocketed.

Then there was a shipping container shortage.

Huge volumes of protective gear and medical supplies were shipped in containers to the far reaches of the planet during the pandemic.

Cargo ships unloaded the containers and moved on to other ports, and now a large supply of empty containers lingers and awaits retrieval.

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Let’s not forget the workers.

Truck drivers and dockworkers are routinely quarantined, reducing the availability of people to unload goods and further slowing down the process.

And the “Great Resignation” has workers quitting their jobs — 4.3 million Americans left their jobs in August — in industries up and down the supply chain.

The Labor Department reported a record 490,000 warehouse job openings in July alone.

What’s being done about it?

The Biden administration is trying to close the supply chain gaps.

The president announced that the port of Los Angeles would begin 24/7 operations to ease the bottlenecks ahead of the holiday season.

Strengthening our supply chains will continue to be my team’s focus," said Biden. "If federal support is needed, I will direct all appropriate action, and if the private sector doesn’t step up, we’re going to call them out and ask them to act."

The White House announced that it had gotten commitments from major logistics companies and retailers such as Walmart, FedEx and UPS to move goods at all hours.

But many experts feel such actions may be too little too late and untangling supply chain woes could take longer as companies and industries navigate uncharted territory.

When will the crisis be over?

That’s hard to say.

There are good reasons to suspect the issues within the supply chain will continue beyond the holidays and into 2022, potentially even longer.

Moody Analytics warned there will be "dark clouds ahead" for the supply chain.

If that's the case, shortages and delays could be the norm for years to come.