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As with all industries, the school furniture and equipment sector is being impacted by several supply chain disruptions. Slowed production during the pandemic, numerous logistical issues, raw materials shortages and increased consumer demand are coming together to form a perfect supply chain storm. Core commodities needed to produce furniture, electronics, paper and other school supplies are in high demand and low supply.
To prepare for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, school administrators and teachers should place orders as early as possible.
“Planning ahead and being flexible with product choices is key,” says President Ben Kremer. “In addition to raw materials shortfalls, products may take a bit longer to arrive due to gas shortages and shipping delays.”
Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act are also driving the demand for school furniture, equipment and supplies. All ARPA money must be spent by September 2023, which puts pressure on administrators to expedite purchases.
“Our recommendation is to place your orders as early as possible so we get them in line with our manufacturers,” adds Kremer. “Because we work with hundreds of manufacturers across the US, if what you ordered is out of stock, we can try to find alternatives."
There are many factors causing turmoil in the supply chain. Here’s a look at how classroom essentials will be impacted:
School Furniture – Steel, lumber and plastic shortages are driving price increases on classroom mainstays like desks and chairs. All three industries scaled back during the pandemic and were caught off guard by the exploding demand that followed. Until production meets demand, some items will remain out of stock.
Tanker truck driver shortages – coupled with the fallout of the Colonial Pipeline cyber hack – are also driving up freight costs. Schools should expect extended lead times and increased shipping costs for furniture and classroom equipment.
Paper Products and Supplies – Another toilet paper shortage is looming, along with paper towels and other paper supplies. The pulp trade is facing significant disruptions, including port backups and shipping container shortages. International suppliers are still recovering from the Suez Canal blockage that occurred in March, which log jammed hundreds of shipping vessels.
Stateside, paper products still face logistical issues including increased freight costs. Panic buying is also a huge factor. Consumers could worsen potential shortages simply by overbuying.
Electronics – Supply chain constraints along with unprecedented demand has led to a chip shortage that could last into 2022. This will impact all electronic devices, including PCs and tablets. Rising costs and limited availability of tech products could prevent some schools from upgrading classroom devices.
How long will these issues continue? It’s possible that these supply chain disruptions could have long-lasting ripple effects. However, most economic forecasters expect the supply and demand mismatch to be short-lived. Once companies optimize their workforce size and ramp up production, we could see normalcy return by the end of the year.