Managing supply chains has always been challenging, but it’s safe to say that 2020 caused a number of disruptions that few were prepared for. Investments in lean manufacturing and just-in-time delivery cut costs, but these strategies didn’t factor in port shutdowns due to pandemic restrictions, worldwide staff shortages, or the massive tidal wave of pent-up demand that we’re now experiencing in 2021.
So, how is the paperboard industry responding to these challenges?
“We know everyone’s having similar issues,” says Chad Kravick, Vice President of Badger Paperboard. “There’s just no material to get. All the plants – the poly plants, stretch film plants, strapping plants, lumber plants – even for pallets – they’re all oversold. Supplies that used to take us ten days to get are now taking three months. So a lot of things are getting pushed to 2022, which is unheard of.”
The cause? Higher than usual demand and lower than average supply. As a surge in COVID-19 cases caused lockdowns in massive ports, the ripple effect across the supply chain is also hitting hard.
Think of it like this: a one-week shutdown of a major Chinese port means that a shipping container won’t be available in California to haul soybeans to India. The container used for those soybeans is then late for arrival to pick up raw goods in Florida. And on it goes.
“We’re working with every single mill in North America,” says Kravick, “buying every ton (of chipboard) that’s available. All of our customers are being taken care of. The nice thing about having four plants is that you can supply accounts from four different plants. A lot of our competitors only have one location and are limited in what they can do. We’re able to move board around to meet deadlines. Being as flexible as we are has really been a benefit for our customers.”
This flexibility was key in turning around a recent paperboard order. “We had one customer that was in dire need of paperboard,” says Kravick. “They did not put an order in on time, and the way things are right now, with everything scheduled out – we had to run their order through our Texas plant, instead of through our Wisconsin plant, as we usually do. We had a tight window, but our guy stayed late in Texas and we got the customer what they needed to keep running. There’s no way a paperboard supplier with one location could have done that.”
All that said: delays can still happen. At Badger Paperboard, the protocols in place have ensured that customers aren’t left high and dry despite all these challenges, though.
“We have protocols in place,” says Kravick. “Delays haven’t happened yet. We haven’t missed any delivery dates, which is pretty much unheard of. We did have to communicate that a few were pushed back, but once we finalized them, we haven’t missed any. We’re still running at 99.9% on-time delivery and working hard to keep that going.”
With the holiday season just a few months away, the team at Badger has already been planning for upticks in orders, longer lead times, and making allowances for supply chain hiccups in their forecasting.
“We planned ahead,” says Kravick. “We’ve taken all of our data from the last five to six years, and got everything planned and scheduled. Jeff and Jake and Bobby do a great job of forecasting and scheduling accordingly. I think our biggest strength – and I’ll say this til the day I’m dead – is our people. They know what they’re doing and they’re really good at their jobs. We have the best production staff and executive staff in our industry – hands down. They’re the ones that make it all work.”
No matter what you call your packaging needs, Badger has your back. Find out more about bundling your packaging needs with Badger. Request a sample of one of our products, or find out more about our strategically-placed nationwide locations and how we’ve improved lead times for our customers.