Posted in Brownstone
May 11, 2022

The Supply-Chain Crisis Has a Cause

There is no Cliff Notes version of why we are experiencing these supply chain issues across the world. A host of influences have combined to create a massive disruption to every day life and the things we buy to sustain it. Primarily, however, the problem traces to the shutdowns from more than two years ago, which created unanticipated shortages that will likely get worse.

Baby formula is one of those things. My wife Jenny was recently on FoxNews discussing the supply and how it impacts us (pictures of the kids during the b-roll too!)

Jenny wrote about her experience on The Federalist today. She notes that the Biden administration has been almost totally silent on this issue.

Or take the infamous toilet paper runs of the last two years.

When it comes to toilet paper, after talking to a few people in the know I came to realize the obvious: people do half of their “business” at their businesses. The distribution of toilet paper for commercial developments involves industrial production of the paper we’ve come to love. Not necessarily your soothing bear-mascot quality but rather efficient large quantities packaged into large reams which janitorial staff then mount in stalls in massive dispensers or efficient gizmos holding multiple rolls.

Now imagine you’re an executive down at the fictitious TP supplier “Wipe World.” The call comes in for the shutdown and you have some serious decisions to make. Production managers at the Big Roll Mill (your supplier for industrial reems of TP) have shut down and will eventually furlough most of the staff. Your shipping contracts will go into default, trucks with slabs of TP rolls tightly wrapped and ready to be dispensed will be called back or even mothballed. The proverbial target of your product is about to hit the fan.

On the plus side it turns out that profits on the consumer side of Wipe World are going to be just fine as demand outstrips supply. You stand to make a good profit if you can shift manufacturing to meet the new demand.

The marketing team is way ahead of you and pitching a product called “Wipe Forever” which comes with a freestanding mount promising you an entire month supply of TP in one massive roll. Essentially, you repackage the industrial stock into a consumer-friendly motif. Google “Charmin Forever” if you think I’m kidding. Problems solved (for now)!

The TP shortages went on for months and would come back again and again throughout the next two years.

But the impact to plumbing of the world doesn’t stop there. Michael Hurtado has spent most of his time during the pandemic flushing toilets and running water at the large Ahern property off the Vegas Strip. The fear was that as rooms would stand empty the water in the toilets and sinks would form bacteria and spread another set of nasty bugs when re-opened.

The same scene would play out across every business building, theme park and college dorm. Engineers and janitors (the essential workers) spent their days tending the loo, minding the sinks and showers on every floor in every building. They did this not only to avoid the impact of stagnated water but to keep the plumbing going at all. Every hotel, park, skyscraper and business office is designed with an anticipated amount of water flowing throughout the infrastructure. If and when that water stops it can cause serious damage to an entire city’s waterworks.

What’s more, those pipes and sewage heroes had to deal with another blow from the domestic side of the equation. In some municipal locales clogs were up fifty percent as germ-worried households (aka all of us in March 2020) amped up their cleaning habits and occasionally flushed those ever-present hand-wipes down the john. This practice doesn’t end well.

So a national shutdown leads to a run on toilet paper, caused by a sudden drop in at-work wiping, leading to massive manufacturing rework, supply-chain shifts, and a janitorial staff forced to walk the halls of vacated buildings like Jack Torrance from The Shining, simulating a proxy population doing their business to keep everything from falling apart. All work and no flushing makes Michael Hurtado a very dull boy.

Now it’s baby formula. This is just the beginning folks. Stay tuned.

Republished from the author’s Substack