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Supply chain shortages could get worse before they get better

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Tugboat crew members Ed Pattison (from left), Tony Awed and Dennis Wasiewski prepare a barge carrying electrical transformers to leave the Port of Albany for a voyage on the Erie Canal.
Hansi Lo Wang
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NPR
Supply chain issues that have recently been halting the movement of goods around the world are expected to become more prevalent as we approach the holiday season.

People around the world are experiencing the pain of supply chain issues. One UMKC professor says it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.

For decades, manufacturers have mostly had quick and ready access to the things they need to assemble products that people use everyday. When things are running smoothly, it usually takes about three weeks to receive what they need. Now, according to UMKC professor Larry D. Wigger, Jr., the average wait time for manufacturers is 92 days.

"The struggles we're seeing in the supply chain — the congestion, the glut — is at all levels. So, it's not just consumers waiting for their finished goods to reach their retailer," Wigger explains, "but, it's our own manufacturers waiting for the materials they need to make their products."

Things like labor shortages along with the lack of truck drivers and shipping containers also play a role in the supply chain issues that we are seeing today. And pandemic only made the situation more complicated.

Wigger says we have been setting ourselves up for these kinds of problems since as far back as World War II. While there have been good things to come out of our current global supply chain, Wigger believes some serious adjustments need to be made.

"We don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water and just turn our back on lean operations for all the good it does us. But we need to adjust some of the levers."

The professor joined us to break down what needs to happen moving forward to correct some these major concerns.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz
As Up To Date’s associate producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.
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