Matt Moudy said he was thinking of moving from a career in dentistry to a career in doors when he sold his Cabot practice and bought a Jacksonville company that designs and installs high-end iron doors for homes.
Little did he know that the hub would also include learning the ins and outs of transportation logistics.
But this daunting task is what Moudy and thousands of importers large and small have struggled to understand amid the pandemic, which has disrupted supply chains around the world and caused long waits for products or , worse still, uncertainty about their arrival. . Or if they will happen.
Moudy was certainly looking for a change from dentistry.
It had “an amazing staff and patients” but “after 16 years – just to be honest with you I wondered if this was something I wanted to do until I retired,” he said. .
And that was not the case, concludes Moudy.
“I love new adventures and change,” Moudy said in an interview last week in the 40,000 square foot warehouse and office on Redmond Road in Jacksonville. “I have two kids. Neither of them wanted to get into dentistry. My son wanted to get into the construction industry. I wondered if I could do something that would be a good family business for him. to come up.”
Moudy eventually bought Elite Entries, a store door company that primarily sells and installs high-end iron doors that can weigh anywhere from 600 to 700 pounds and cost nearly $ 5,000 or more. The company also sells a range of bathtubs.
While the career change happened during the pandemic, supply chain issues were not on Moudy’s radar.
More and more of the doors that his company sells and installs are custom projects. His team uses a computer-aided design that is passed on to their supplier, who makes a door to customer specifications.
“Of the, [customers ask] how fast can we get it, ”Moudy said. “Everyone wants it yesterday.
Soon yesterday was no longer possible. The doors did not arrive when they were expected. Moudy was not receiving responses from the shipping companies that ran his one or two sea containers per month from the port of Xiamen, China, a journey of nearly 8,000 miles to Jacksonville. He barely knew what to ask for.
“For me, it was learning a new language,” he said. “When I bought the business, the transportation and logistics in the United States were different from what they are today. Even from February to today.
“When I bought [the business], the previous owner, what he knew about transportation, to import something into the United States, he would literally say the doors are ready he would go through a business and it would show up at his door 30-45 days plus late. “
When Moudy started running the business, it took 12 to 16 weeks for customers to see their doors after placing an order.
“We are now telling people 24 weeks,” he said. “What you see off those ports of Long Beach and LA that you see on the news, it’s 100% true. It’s chaotic there too.”
One of the biggest issues is that there was no way to anticipate delays or, if there are delays, to do anything about them.
“It could get to me in 45 days or it could get to me in 90 days,” Moudy said. “It’s totally out of your control.”
Moudy decided he needed help and asked around. A supplier put him in touch with Jason Haith, who runs a branch in Louisville, Ky., For OEC Group, an international logistics company specializing in Asian and West Asian trade.
Moudy said it was humiliating to learn how much he needed to learn.
“I was very naive, to be honest with you, about how things got to me,” he said. “I was probably like most Americans. We take for granted how everything gets to our doorstep. I think I took for granted how much is being imported into the United States.”
Haith was not surprised.
“This whole industry until two years ago lived in the background,” he said.
OEC does not have a fleet of ships, railroads or trucking fleets. It does not have the containers in which most goods are shipped these days. The company, on the contrary, coordinates between these different modes of transport to get a shipping load to its destination. OED also manages customs declarations and other documents.
What the OED has done, Moudy said, is “start fighting for me.”
If Moudy were President of the United States, Haith would be his Secretary of Transportation. Even before the current president announced a plan to open the Port of Los Angeles around the clock in an effort to reduce the backlog, Haith advised Moudy to avoid the West Coast at all costs, which also includes the ports of Long Beach and Vancouver.
Even Haith had limits on the tools at his disposal.
“There’s not much I can do if a ship is 100 miles from the coast,” he said.
The problem, according to Haith, was that shipping companies no longer allowed their containers to be transported inland to Chicago, Memphis, Kansas City and other places in the middle part of the country. They were difficult to recover and were a significant investment. A ship can hold up to 10,000 sea containers.
When the railroads couldn’t retrieve the containers from the west coast ports, no one was able to fill the void. The containers began to pile up in the port. There weren’t enough trucks or drivers to take them. There weren’t enough staff in the warehouses to load them even though the trucks were available, Haith said.
Haith said if he was in charge he would have activated the National Guard to staff the warehouses, which he identified as the main bottleneck.
As for Moudy, Haith recommended that he send his doors through the Panama Canal, in the Gulf of Mexico, to the ports of Houston or Mobile, Ala.
It not only cleared port congestion on the west coast, but also eliminated rail as another source of delay.
The new route “saves weeks,” Moudy said.
But it comes at a cost. Crossing the canal requires smaller ships.
“Going on smaller ships costs me more,” he said. “For me, having the doors here is more important to me than saving money.”
Haith said he believes the supply chain will have a chance to catch its breath during a two-week lull in shipping that will come with Chinese New Year celebrations in late February and early March.
But then comes July and the longshoremen’s union contract expires with West Coast ports. Workers often engage in work stoppages. The last work stoppage lasted four months, Haith said.
Moudy won’t be taking any chances anytime soon with the ports on the west coast.
“It will be cheaper to come back to the other route one day,” he said. “But until further notice, we are crossing the Gulf of Mexico.”