Industry News

Recapping 2021:
An Unprecedented Year in Supply Chain


Before writing this month’s newsletter, a double-take was necessary when we saw that it’s already December. This year has been, well, a lot. It seems like just yesterday that ports were being locked down, we were ‘surprised’ to see a record number of ships off the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and that massive green monster managed to get jammed in the Suez Canal.

For the first time, supply chain made its way to the mainstream. In 2021, CEOs mentioned these two words on their earnings calls more than any other period in recent history. We can’t recall a day that went by when supply chain wasn’t mentioned in the news. If supply chain issues in 2020 sparked concern, 2021 transformed that concern into frustration. We won’t go into the details of this as we don’t want to ruin your day, but we do want to take a moment and highlight a bit of silver lining amidst the chaos:

  • The industry is being reported on, constantly. More and more people are now aware of how important the supply chain is to the economy and their everyday lives.
  • It’s fragile. We saw earlier this year how one event (cough, Ever Given) set off a chain reaction that rippled through the global economy for months. Even though this was a catastrophic event, the industry can learn from something like this to prevent it from happening again in the future.
  • Deficiencies in the supply chain have been exposed. Outdated infrastructure, inefficient communication, and labor shortages are all areas that need to be addressed in order for the system to run smoother.

Looking to the future, we can only hope the industry has been awakened by this crisis and we prioritize the impact the supply chain has on the global economy. Fortunately, the White House has pointed out that the number of container ships stuck on docks for nine days or more has declined by 41% since November 1. Unfortunately, this respite has only been temporary. With Omicron now in the U.S. and likely spreading rapidly, it’s a real worry that we could end up backtracking on any meaningful progress.

It’s probably too early to tell but going off a gut punch market reaction last week, the economy is worried. According to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, “…people are afraid to go to work. In manufacturing facilities, people work in person, close together. And there have been outbreaks. We’ve had problems in places where people work close.” Bottom line, it’s hard to have confidence when you’re surrounded by uncertainty.

Regardless of what happens here in the next couple of months, we want to take a moment to reflect on the resilience of our industry and our people, especially in 2021. We’re in a field where we can’t shut down to take a breath. Freight doesn’t stop and neither do we. We must adapt as we go and do our very best to serve our customers every day. We want to express our sincere gratitude to our clients and our partners. This has been an unprecedented year and we appreciate your patience and faith in M.E. Dey as we navigate the crisis together.

We hope you have a safe and successful end of the year. Happy Holidays!