Supply Chain in Crisis

America’s supply chain is in an emergency situation, one that is growing worse for our industry by the day. A labor shortage, the pandemic, weather disasters and backlogged cargo bays have pushed the supply chain to its breaking point. Consumers having to wait longer for toys and holiday gifts is an annoyance — waiting for CPG necessities like baby formula or toilet paper is not an option.

A supply chain in crisis refuses to be ignored. It is showing up as higher costs for manufacturers and, ultimately, consumers. But higher prices are an indication of a supply and demand imbalance — an imbalance that can quickly tip into a lack of availability. Today, that means fewer choices on the store shelf; left unaddressed, the consequences could be much more severe.

The supply chain is crying out for Washington policymakers’ attention and engagement. We were pleased and relieved to see the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act pass, reversing years of inaction and inattention that have worsened our current supply chain crisis. While the infrastructure bill will undoubtedly help in the future, there are immediate issues that demand action.

I recently joined a White House meeting on the supply chain crisis. While we are pleased to see this newfound focus on supply chain challenges, it is imperative that we remember that supply chain bottlenecks are not only at our shorelines. As discussions continue, our industry is advocating for greater action in three key areas:

  1. Increasing the labor pool. Higher prices and supply chain bottlenecks are symptoms of the labor shortage in the U.S. Every effort to fill jobs in supply chains must be considered, including financial incentives to recruit truck drivers, temporary visas to fill employment gaps and, if needed, targeted use of the National Guard to relieve significant supply chain choke points.
  2. Maintaining regulatory flexibility. In response to COVID-19, regulatory flexibility was allowed and must be extended until the pandemic recedes and the supply chain catches up. Whether it’s action to increase trucking capacity — like with Hours of Service flexibility or easing truck weight restrictions — or pausing planned rollbacks of flexibility like the EPA has proposed with disinfectants, the government must take a “do no harm” position right now that allows companies to focus on delivering for consumers.
  3. Establishing a regular dialogue with the private sector on vaccine mandate implementation. With so much unknown about how the vaccine and testing requirements will affect the critical supply chain workforce, it is imperative that the White House keep a regular dialogue with the private sector to stay tuned into how implementation is affecting the production and delivery of essential products leading up to the January 4 deadline.

There is much more that can be done. Right now, our focus must be on the things that can’t wait. Chalking these challenges up as transitory is the equivalent of a shoulder shrug. That kind of ambivalence got us here. It will also get us into deeper trouble if it continues.

Geoff Freeman, President and CEO, Consumer Brands Association

The Consumer Brands Association champions growth and innovation for the industry whose products consumers depend on every day.