To say the last 18+ months have been a challenge for the logistics and supply chain industries is a bit of an understatement. Tight capacity, port congestion, raw material shortages, quarantines, social distancing requirements, labor issues—the list of disruptions and challenges feels never-ending. For those of you dealing with these issues every day in your business, it might feel like you’re a hamster on a wheel running as fast as you can but getting nowhere fast. While there is much we cannot control, learning the value of patience and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable might just be the key to surviving and thriving as we navigate through the effects of a global pandemic.
As I write this, I’m currently sitting at an airport waiting for my plane to arrive after a seven-hour delay. This is not the first flight delay I’ve encountered this summer. A runway delay left me stranded in Baltimore overnight in early June. A 30-minute power outage at Denver International Airport caused my incoming flight from the Midwest to be delayed. Then terrible weather on the East Coast delayed my return flight home by three hours.
My optimistic outlook and bubbly disposition began to take a hit as I struggled with the frustration of sitting and waiting at the airport. I had nothing but time on my hands to think about the disruptions and quickly realized there really wasn’t much I could do except be patient. Not an easy task when all you want to do is get home and get back into your normal routine.
Yet the mind is a powerful tool, and we have the ability to shift our thinking in the face of extreme pressure and obstacles—whether it be in our personal or professional lives. That mindset shift can be especially instrumental for supply chains that have to pivot quickly, think outside the box, and innovate in order to survive.
Resilient, nimble, and agile are buzzwords we hear often. As Gary Master, DC Velocity’s publisher, mentioned during a recent company meeting, “Today’s supply chains are designed to be nimble and agile, and they always respond to uncertainty and find an equilibrium.” But like all good things, it takes time, and that’s where practicing the art of patience can come in handy.
I know we are all ready to be done with Covid, mask mandates, inventory issues, capacity challenges, etc. Our industry will prevail, but it’s going to take some time. While labor issues, raw material shortages, and a virulent strain of Covid hold our supply chains hostage at the moment, “I estimate that, while [the supply chain] will once again recover, … some sectors could take up to two years to really be back to equilibrium,” Master says.
In the meantime, what do you do when your patience is running thin? Reach out, if you haven’t already, to your mentors and to people you trust and who understand the challenges you’re facing. The supply chain community is there to help you. The fall trade show and conference season will be kicking into high gear next month. This is a perfect time to lean on your peers, attend educational events like the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ (CSCMP) Edge Conference & Exhibition, and find events that are tailored to your specific needs. I always find it helpful to lean on community.
And don’t forget to take a deep breath … this too shall pass.