Blocking the Ambassador Bridge is another example of expecting the unexpected in the supply chain

Expecting the unexpected has become a central part of the logistics and supply chain playbook in recent years. It’s fair to say that, at least initially, the disruptions at the Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge fell into this “unexpected” group, of course.

Before I go any further, this column is not me playing politics and telling people whether or not they should get vaccinated. Freedom of speech is a right that we all have, and people on both sides of the border, when it comes to the pandemic and vaccinations, have made their cases clear, regardless of their beliefs, and that’s very good.

But, at the same time, the impact of the disruptions on the North American supply chain left its mark, before cross-border traffic between the United States and Canada resumed last Sunday.

For example, a Detroit Free Press report, citing data from the Anderson Economic Group, an economic research firm based in East Lansing, Michigan, said the Ambassador Bridge protests have come at the expense of industry. automobile, for to the tune of over $250 million, a staggering sum, no matter how measured.

Additionally, the company added that, “In just one week, automakers including General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota suffered losses estimated at $155 million. Within hours, assembly plants were plagued with shortages and slowdowns.

Make that two staggering sums.

The United States Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and Business Roundtable have made clear their views on the negative impact of these disruptions on trade flows and the movement of goods in a joint statement they released. on February 10, when protests were in full swing.

“The disruptions we are seeing at the US-Canada border – at the Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge and other crossings – add to significant supply chain strains for manufacturers and other businesses in the United States” , the organizations said. “The business community is rolling up its sleeves to find workarounds and keep facilities running, but we are already seeing production cuts, shift reductions and temporary plant closures. The North American economy relies on our ability to work closely together, including our manufacturing sectors. We must apply the same spirit of cooperation to solve this problem.

There are some very good points in this statement, make no mistake. If the protests and disruptions headed south in the United States, as has been reported, it stands to reason that these types of issues could persist to varying degrees.

Eric Starks, president and CEO of FTR Transportation Intelligence, explained that, from a supply chain and logistics operations perspective, these protests and disruptions are causing short-term headaches for shippers, to varying degrees. various, depending on their specific vertical sector.

“The automotive sector has obviously been particularly affected by this blockade of caravan passage,” he said. “The thing about it, though – and it’s just a gut feeling as to how I personally see the situation is that it was probably a good thing for the automotive sector, in the sense that it continued to have supply chain issues, specifically around chips,” he said. “Essentially, having a few days here and there won’t hurt them, because they’re not operating at full capacity. Longer term, yes, it structurally creates problems. From everything we’ve seen, it doesn’t “Hasn’t hurt overall production levels, at least what we expect from them by mid-summer. Chip availability will continue to be the real constraint.”

Given the political elements of this situation, Starks added that it is possible to still enter an area in which to be careful, adding that he does not see any specific problem regarding the potential for caravans entering the United States, with regards to becoming something too problematic rather than additional nuisances and headaches in various areas in the long run.

Matthew Moroun, chairman of the Detroit International Bridge Co., owner of the Ambassador Bridge, and chairman of holding company Universal Logistics, told Mike Regan, director of relationships for TranzAct Technologies, that until these recent events, the bridge Ambassador had never closed, having survived before. the Great Depression, World War II and 9/11, but “somehow the truckers figured out how to shut it down – something that has never been done in 93 years of history”, note the interview.

And Moroun added in the interview that the shutdown demonstrated that truckers “know how the supply chain works better than most other people, even those in ‘suits’ who work in the supply chain,” so as leaders in policy and law enforcement. .

“Given that the number of drivers is limited and there is no elasticity to find more drivers who have been approved by the Canadian and US governments, shippers will likely see cross-border shipments delayed over the next two weeks. “, he added.

Whatever the reasons, the unexpected always seems to happen faster than expected. That said, these days continue to be important in this sense, the situation at the Ambassador Bridge being the most recent example. It’s not yet clear what will happen if the caravan makes its way to the United States, but it’s something all stakeholders need to watch closely.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics management, Modern material handlingand Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight forwarding and material handling industries on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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