MiMfg May/Jun 2022 - Page 13

I t ’ s common knowledge that supply chain disruptions are having a major impact on manufacturing . Like many industry changes over the past two years , it ’ s a phenomenon rooted in the COVID-19 pandemic that has had far-reaching impact on manufacturers , distributors and consumers .

Despite the seemingly constant stream of obstacles , there is a positive side to the story . The continuing disruptions to supply chains all over the world have encouraged manufacturers to evaluate how their current supply chains function and develop a greater understanding of the true cost of doing business .
To adapt in the short-term and make sure their products get out on time , many Michigan manufacturers are finding a number of innovative solutions to overcome supply chain challenges . But facing these types of challenges is nothing new for resilient Michigan manufacturers .
“ Facing and solving problems within their supply chain relationships , from material sourcing to distribution and delivery , is nothing new for the industry ,” says Brett Smith , Director of Technology for the Center for Automotive Research .
The pandemic , however , created a scenario without any historic precedent .
“ Over the last 20 years , we ’ ve seen many supply chain disruptions , but we ’ ve never experienced a global pandemic before ,” says Smith .
The Center for Automotive Research ( CAR ) is an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit group that focuses on studying the automotive industry and its impact on the state and the U . S . Throughout the pandemic and the aftereffects , Smith and CAR have conducted research to gain market insights in the automotive sector and beyond . What they ’ ve found in Michigan is an industry that is resilient , open to change and has a desire to gain a deeper understanding about their supply chains .
“ Most major manufacturers have never faced anything like this ,” he says . “ But if history has shown us anything , it ’ s that each time the industry goes through a disruption , we gain a greater appreciation of how challenging and how complex their supply base is and the companies take steps to better prepare for disruptions .”
Smith added , “ These disruptions force us to see a true picture of what that supply base is doing from top to bottom .”
For Detroit-based PVS Chemicals , they ’ ve been able to weather the storm through the pandemic and ongoing supply chain issues largely because their supply chain is “ really defined ,” says Jeff Daniel , Vice President and Chief Financial Officer . PVS is one of North America ’ s largest providers of chemicals to make drinking water safe . They , along with their suppliers , were deemed essential early on during the pandemic .
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“ Through crucial and careful management , the actual flow of materials hasn ’ t been too much of a disruption for us ,” says Daniel .
Because of the critical role PVS plays in the country ’ s drinking water supply , plants need to stay open 24 / 7 . So that means they ’ ve had to pay a premium in order to get materials delivered and utilize alternative manufacturing processes to keep the plants running , says Daniel .
“ We really don ’ t have the luxury of having a delay ,” says Daniel . “ We can ’ t say , we ’ re sorry we ’ ll get it to you a month from now . When you ’ re treating water , people don ’ t want to hear that .”
To address this and not pass all of those higher costs onto customers , Daniel and his team have had to carefully manage the process and identify areas to make improvements .
Most major manufacturers have never faced anything like this . But if history has shown us anything , it ’ s that each time the industry goes through a disruption , we gain a greater appreciation of how challenging and how complex their supply base is and the companies take steps to better prepare for disruptions .
— Brett Smith • Center for Automotive Research
“ We ’ ve identified where those bottlenecks are and we ’ re investing through capital and technology to ease that and create more efficiencies ,” he says .
Amigo Mobility is also one of the many Michigan manufacturers that has discovered innovative solutions to the ongoing supply chain disruptions . Founded in 1968 and based in Bridgeport , they make motorized shopping carts and other mobility products so sourcing components from their normal suppliers was one of the first issues they encountered , says Jordan Thieme , Amigo ’ s Director of Operations .
“ Since the beginning of COVID-19 , our supply chain has struggled with not one , but many challenges ,” says Thieme . “ Early on in the pandemic , the issue was getting parts from overseas . Then , once our suppliers caught up on production , we couldn ’ t get things on a boat . Then , we couldn ’ t get things off the boat into the U . S . Then , we had trouble finding truckers to get the materials from the port to our facilities . Now , we are struggling to hire enough people to meet the current workload .”
In the face of these challenges , Thieme and the Amigo team recognized they needed to evolve their approach by requiring multiple sources — it ’ s a similar transition that many manufacturers have had to face .