Welcome to the WHAT THE TRUCK?!? newsletter. In this issue, supply chain worker stress hits boiling point; the shipping crisis through the eyes of a stuffed animal; will iPhone 13 be delayed; and more.
Burnout — Supply chain has never been an easy career path, especially for those looking to operate in a low-stress environment. Ever since last June when the freight market took off on meme stock-like trajectories, workers, many of whom are deemed essential, have faced a relentless barrage of disruptions and uncertainty. From truckers to operations, the unending torrent of freight-related issues is starting to whittle down the psyche of our most important resource: people. A recent Reddit thread highlighted how this sustained level of stress is driving some workers to the brink.
Life on hold — In a thankless profession, it’s easy for negativity to overwhelm. It’s been a few years since I ran perishable airfreight at a Vandegrift office in Boston but I still wake up with freightmares over FDA holds and 3 a.m. calls from customers. I can only imagine the challenge this has been working through a pandemic where every mode of transportation is a dumpster fire. Megan Watkins, a retail food service manager, recently told CNBC, “I’ve put my entire life on hold and devoted everything to keep the business running.” A sentiment that reverberates throughout workers along every link of the supply chain.
“I’m getting annoyed by endless emails asking for ETAs or any predictions on price increases. Or asking us to pay for air freight because our orders are late …” — Redditor aiyayayaai
Trapped — As millennials age they’re starting to feel locked in to their circumstances, which may be adding to the pressure they feel to make a change. “We’ve worked so hard to get to where we are in our careers, we don’t want to lose that. So I feel I can’t back away from that responsibility,” Watkins told CNBC. We’ve talked about the great resignation before. How the stress of supply chain and alienation some feel in remote environments has contributed to an employee exodus. While 26% of all workers are planning to get a new job once the pandemic subsides, that number rises to 33% for millennials, according to Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey.
Out of the frying pan into the fire — Is there such a thing as a low-stress job in this industry and would switching roles have a long-term benefit? Opportunity abounds right now with job listings and positions open that many never had such easy access to. The temptation is unavoidable, especially if your current employer hasn’t improved your compensation despite rapidly escalating inflation. But, is the role right for you?
Crowdsource — Sick of taking blame all day for things you have no control over? Here are a few recommendations from Redditors in logistics on what the lowest-stress jobs are in the business.
My recommendations — Since 2005 I’ve held operations roles in imports, exports, sales and duty drawback. Here’s how I’d rank them by level of stress based on my own personal experience from most stressful to least:
- Sales — Cutthroat, limited training, ever-increasing quotas and a position often devoid of organizational empathy. Enter at your risk and your mileage may vary.
- Imports — Can be very rewarding but more often than not things can and will go wrong. It may be at a port, with a supplier, with a shipper, with a trucker, with billing, with the customer or all of the above. Most of the time you feel like Tim Tebow trying to deliver a block. Rarely is there anything you can do other than mitigate disaster when the wheels go up in smoke.
- Exports — Similar to imports, just less demanding. However, all the same issues usually impact your freight and you’re typically working in a smaller department than imports — so, less support.
- Duty drawback — The greatest mid- to senior-level job in the building. What makes duty drawback so incredible? You’re giving shippers back money. That’s always a good phone call and you actually do get praise. Plus, drawback claims are not particularly time sensitive. Most of the time you’re matching imports to exports, calculating a return, filing a claim and telling a shipper they’re getting paid. If you’re stressed out and can get a role in drawback — take it immediately!
Sound off — How are you combating stress for yourself or your organization? Let me know and we can talk about it on an episode of WTT. Email me.
The shipping crisis through the eyes of a stuffed giraffe
ETA 11 to 12 months — When Time reporter Alana Samuels ordered a Jani, a 4-foot plush giraffe from toy retailer VIAHART, she didn’t realize she’d inadvertently fallen into the depths of the shipping crisis rabbit hole. That’s because Jani was ordered in August of 2020 and didn’t arrive until July of this year. Samuels wanted answers. What she found was the tip of the iceberg that small shippers are battling against.
Inflation — When Jani left Asia, her estimated cost was $87 but by the time she arrived nearly a year later that price had risen to $116. What happened? The U.S. dollar fell, raising invoice costs at the supplier, ocean shipping costs went from $3 to $13 a unit, parcel and final mile increased, VIAHART had to protect margins, and ultimately Amazon had to be paid its commission.
“They’re not our partner. We’re not a partner of Amazon. They’re our master. When they tell us to jump, we say, ‘How high?’” — VIAHART CEO Molson Hart on WTT
Amazon experience — Last week, VIAHART CEO Molson Hart joined us on WTT to talk about the challenges of being a retailer on Amazon. For companies like VIAHART, solving international shipping challenges is only one side of the business. Once the product is available to sell, VIAHART has to contend with knockoffs, seemingly unfair Prime shipping badge policies, fake reviews, product search algorithm gaming and an increasingly asymmetrical partnership. Check out the full interview with Hart nine minutes in on this link.
No delay for iPhone 13
Supply chain says — What chip shortage? Despite disruptions, factory shutdowns and the Lovecraftian nightmare that shipping is, the iPhone 13 is still on track for a September launch. According to 9 to 5 Mac, “Reports that we’ll see a September iPhone 13 launch are given increased confidence by supply-chain checks on the number of units already assembled in readiness, says an analyst.” Wedbush calmed investors’ nerves with a note stating, “Our recent Asia supply chain checks for 2H put iPhone builds between 130M-150M.” In fact, Apple anticipates 10% growth in sales for the iPhone 13 over last year’s model, iPhone 12.
I’ll see your charter and raise you a port
Biscuit in the basket — Two months ago, Home Depot raised eyebrows when it went ahead and charted its own ship. Walmart has also taken the leap and secured its own vessels to ensure products are on shelves this holiday season. Not to be outdone, Retail Wire reports, “Canadian Tire Corp. has purchased a 25 percent stake in Ashcroft Terminal Ltd., British Columbia’s largest inland port, to support the retailer’s supply chain flexibility and sustainability goals.”
“The deal secures railway capacity against our future requirements, allowing us to work across a smaller number of partners.” — Canadian Tire CEO Greg Hicks
On the rails — Railheads can rejoice as the $40 million investment will be used toward shifting volume from trucks to rail in western Canada. The CEO, Greg Hicks, sees this as an opportunity to be a more sustainable shipper, have more control over capacity, and to have “goods available in the right geography.”
WTT this week
Wednesday — Autonomous trucking’s potential impact on sustainability; ensuring critical shipments are on time in full; and answering the call in e-commerce with Finch Fulton, VP of policy and strategy, Locomation; Krenar Komoni, CEO, Tive, and Joe Spisak, CEO, ShipDaddy.
Friday — How IoT is speaking the digital language of logistics; mitigating risk in manufacturing; how telematics are changing the dynamics for insurance; global e-commerce with Hatem Zeine, founder and president, Ossia; Ashwin Vasudevan, director of marketing, KBX; Steve Shebuski, VP of digital strategy, Blue Horseshoe; and Mark Epperson, chief client officer, AonTransportation Programs.
Catch new shows live at noon ET Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on FreightWavesTV, FreightWaves LinkedIn and Facebook or on demand by looking up WHAT THE TRUCK?!? on your favorite podcast player.
Now on demand
Freight’s collision course
The spoils of cold chain
Bridging the culture gap between drivers and the office
Field trip — The Dude and I took a trip over to Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Taimen Transport to see how they’re getting drivers and the office on the same page. Check it out here. Want WTT to visit your team? Email me.
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