It's been, and still is, a very strange time to be in business. In our world of importing, manufacturing & product sourcing, it's felt like trying to do business with your hands behind your back! We are working with factories all over the world, importing products thousands of miles to get here and in order to make this as risk free for ourselves and clients as possible, we have to control as many external factors as we can. Enter Covid-19. Goodbye any sense of control on our external environments!
We had been dealing with Covid-19 in China from December 2019, our factories were unsure on the impact after Chinese New Year, and then as we know none of the factories were able to reopen, and we were faced with supply chain issues. This we naively believed at the time, was the worst of it. We had no idea the devastation that was about to happen in China, and the rest of the World until a few weeks later.
By Feb/March 2020, the world had changed. China manufacturing was starting to recover. But now we had a new issue, who was to supply the rest of the World with Personal Protective Equipment? and really quickly! China factories had to upskill, and what has ensued is a mish mash of factories that have always produced these products, those that saw the opportunities and those that needed to change their production lines to PPE in order to stay in business.
But that's not the only issue, how do these products get to the countries that need it? Traditionally importing from further afield, importers will use a mix of sea freight (containers), and air (the more expensive, but quicker option). Now everyone needs it quickly, everyone needs air freight. Due to Covid-19 the number of airlines flying has been reduced, there is no capacity - that means that pricing has gone crazy, and weight restrictions apply. Basically those countries willing to pay will get the products out quickly. Oh and money upfront, to both factories and shippers, all risk lying with the buyers. Not ideal.
We have had to operate in this world. Right now there isn't much choice, we are still in the midst of the pandemic and factories outside of China either haven't opened up yet or have work to do in order to get an understanding of the specification needed, and ensuring standards are adhered to. China hold the cards for now, and I feel that this has been a lesson to us all. When we first went into business, one of the pieces of advice we got was "don't have all you eggs in one basket", so we have to take this learning into the supply chain. We can't be so overexposed on supply from any one country, for a myriad of reasons - the fact is that when product is produced further away, it is harder to get here.
What does this mean for our business? it's too soon to tell, we have built up very strong relationships with factories in China, and we would hope to continue building on these. But we would like to be able to add more European factories, and local Irish manufacturing to our portfolio of suppliers.
Stay Safe Everyone.