The Consequences of Supply Chain Issues


Nathan S '27, Writer

You’ve heard it everywhere from the news, from home and from sources everywhere all about supply chain issues and the crisis. Retailers post signs on their front doors: “Due to supply chain issues, some items may be out of stock” and individual high-demand items may be on backorder for months, for seemingly no reason. Even though many people hear about the “supply chain”, we’re still left to wonder what supply chain issues are and how they affect us in our day to day life. 

In order to grasp the consequence of supply chain issues, one must understand the supply chain. How does the item you order on Amazon Prime get from the manufacturer to your house? The supply chain consists of the manufacturer, the shipper – most often large ships or planes who deliver product to ports, warehouses, and finally, the individual trucks which deliver the goods to their final destination. The supply chain issues we are facing now are caused by a few main factors. The first factor is restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19. Think about it – if people are having difficulty traveling, chances are that goods will share the same struggles. Additionally, manufacturers that rely on overseas operators to create their product struggle with labor shortage when workers are unable to pass through customs. This labor shortage is only compounded by vaccine requirements and mandates. Each country is able to independently deem each type of the COVID-19 vaccine eligible or ineligible. The CDC has determined that  the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine (Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine) which over 1 billion Chinese citizens have taken is not acceptable in the U.S., so those citizens are not allowed to work or come into U.S. ports in California. This creates negative consequences for the supply chain because China produces and exports 28.7% of the world’s goods – by far the most of any other country. The United States relies heavily on goods manufactured in China, and due to restrictions on vaccines and labor shortages, there are issues with having goods shipped from China to the U.S. The third factor causing these supply chain issues are quarantines as a result of COVID-19 which depend on state, agency and country. COVID-19 quarantines can last between 5-21 days, sometimes even after a negative test result. These extended quarantine periods, especially popular at the beginning of the pandemic, have had a prolonged effect on worker availability. These issues combined create both labor shortages in factories, and provide a limited amount of manpower to help in transporting these goods around the world for consumers. 

Knowing the reasons the supply chain is delayed doesn’t help answer the question of how these problems affect ordinary consumers. This article is choosing to focus on the ramifications of delays on items such as books, electronics, and how this impacts the education system. One item most of us use in school, to many benefits, are TI-84 calculators, which rely on a microchip to complete their essential functions. Due to staffing shortages and factory closures in China and the US, the continued production of these microchips is threatened, which directly impacts the ability of companies such as Texas Instruments to proceed in creating their iconic products. One other item we use regularly, that is heavily affected by the supply chain crisis is paper. Paper is made in mills and to make paper these mills process raw wood. Currently, there is a supply shortage at most lumber mills and there have been challenges overseas with meeting the U.S.’s import demand.  Many people would assume that due to computers, paper is not an essential material, however this cannot be more false. For classes such as math and science, computer technology has not evolved to support the designing of detailed diagrams and complicated formulaic calculations, making access to paper an absolute necessity for success in school. This all can cause negative impacts in schools and there could be trouble completing certain projects because of issues with materials caused by the supply chain crisis. The increasing supply chain issues will have long-lasting consequences that will take many months to resolve, and until then, who knows what else might have a shortage.