Interim Dean of the DeVille School of Business Provides Insight Into Supply Chain Crisis

With the supply chain impacting our ability to feed children at school, build playgrounds and homes, and make new car purchases – many of us are concerned about the upcoming holidays – everything from turkeys to technology.  How widespread is the supply chain issue, how else might we be impacted, and just how long will this last?

Dr. Mike Petrochuk is the Interim Dean of the DeVille School of Business at Walsh University.  He is also a Professor of Marketing and Healthcare Management.  Prior to Walsh, he served many years as a chief strategy officer.  His background and expertise make him an ideal spokesperson to comment on the supply chain crisis.

Here are his thoughts on the impact it is having locally and beyond and what we're doing at Walsh University to make a difference.

  • We're facing a current supply chain issue -- not encountered for over 95 years.
  • It's a perfect storm of increased demand and lagging supply.
  • All caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Global pandemic has affected the globe's ability to obtain what we want / what we're used to having.
  • It might take well into 2023 to dig ourselves out of this dilemma.
Q:  Car lots have been empty for months.  Grocery shoppers are paying more for food.  Schools are having trouble feeding students. Assembly plants are waiting for parts. Trucking companies are scrambling to recruit new drivers. And Americans are worried about gifts arriving in time for the holiday.

A:  This is our "new normal."  We saw a glimmer of this in the spring of 2020.  As the pandemic spread, consumer demand outpaced supply.  Remember how hard it was to get a roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and the life?

Q:  Is the COVID-19 pandemic completely to blame for disruptions in the supply chain?

A:  It's not totally to blame.  Not having a sufficient workforce is to blame.  Not having other ways to get our products across the globe is to blame.  But clearly, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that brought these issues to light.

Q:  What caused overseas production factories to close?

A:  First, it was the global shutdown due to the pandemic.  Workers were sent home.  There was fear of the coronavirus.  As the pandemic reached a point where businesses could reopen, many did not -- due to shifting consumer preference, supply shortages, and difficulties securing employees.  The fact that our globe is facing these issues shows how interconnected and truly global our businesses are.  This can be a blessing.  However, now, we're seeing it as a curse.

Q:  Why are cargo ships unable to dock and unload cargo?

A:  This is a good question.  Cargo ships can navigate themselves.  They can't unload themselves.  And then, the products shipped on those cargo ships can't deliver themselves.  China has faced an energy shortage -- leading to a slowdown in production.  However, in Europe (especially in German) and the United States, a severe truck driver shortage has caused these backlogs at the ports.

Q:  Why and has the pandemic exasperated this labor shortage?

A:  I wish it was easier to describe.  Consumer attitudes have shifted during the pandemic and as we've emerged.  Who would've dreamed that entire grocery stores would be transformed -- only serving drive-up customers?  Food delivery companies have exploded as demand has ballooned.  Google a restaurant and it will include three options:  dine-in, take-out, or delivery.  Who could've predicted that just two years ago?  As businesses have shifted, employees have shifted too.  And, then as traditional industries have sought to regroup, retool, and reopen, it's been difficult to hire workers.

Q:  Families canceled holiday celebrations last year to keep COVID-19 from spreading. The concern this year involves toys and the ability to meet the all-time high demand.

A:  I heard one person say -- just talk with your children.  Tell them about the supply chain issues.  They'll understand.  Right!  Let me know how that goes.  But the harsh reality is that it will be difficult to obtain all the toys and other gift items that go under the tree.  The truth is -- there has always been a shortage of the high-demand gifts.  Remember trying to find a Tickle-Me-Elmo doll?  This year, though, we're seeing shortages across many categories of gifts -- not the high-demand ones.

Q:  President Joe Biden said that companies like UPS, FedEx and Walmart would expand their business hours, and that the Port of Los Angeles would open around the clock to keep goods moving and ease the supply issues affecting everything from holiday shopping to home remodeling.  Is that enough?

A:  That's a start -- but it will take a lot more.  Remember, our U.S. economy is global.  It relies on countries and companies across the globe -- working together -- to pull this off.  And, while we think of the U.S. as the leader in the world's economy, others might not agree.  Take China, for example.  They are trying to meet their own country's demands.

Q:  Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said that Americans should be prepared for the global supply chain to remain in crisis through 2022 — and that the central bank is preparing to deal with the attendant challenges for the US economy.

A:  I'd agree.  And if we see another wave -- or heaven forbid, waves -- of COVID, the supply chain issue could get worse before it gets better.

Q:  What can we, as consumers, and as educators/students learn about this?

A:  As consumers, here in Canton and Northeast Ohio, we can buy local.  Sure, our local businesses are facing some of the same issues as others -- but usually not in the same scale.  And since many obtain their products from other local businesses, they're not facing the same supply chain issues.  So -- buy local.  As an educator, I'd say that folks need to learn about the current crisis and then plan for the future.  At Walsh, our DeVille School of Business offers two majors that are directly and head-on tackling the supply chain crisis.  We have majors in Supply Chain and Digital Marketing & Analytics.  But any of our business majors will give folks the tools and skills to develop a business strategy that prepares them.


Listen to his radio interview on Canton's WHBC.