4 Tips to Manage Current Supply Chain Challenges

  • December 21, 2021
  • News

tips supply chain challenges

With the first signs of supply chain problems cropping up in mid-2020, we’ve all felt the impacts in one way or another by now.

Supply chains depend on people and equipment. If one of those two factors is off balance, then the chain breaks down.

Amid the disruptions, the most important step you can take to avoid negative impacts is to be prepared. Van Meter anticipates that global supply chain issues will continue throughout 2022—and not just for semiconductor chips or cars, but also for many of the products you rely on to finish projects.

The same strategies that served you well a few years ago may not hold up in this unpredictable environment. To make it through these supply chain challenges, we suggest following these four ideas.

1. Try a Just-in-Case Strategy Instead of Just-in-Time Strategy

Relying on a just-in-time inventory strategy was how the industry did business just a few years ago. For now, however, it’s not an approach you should count on. Even one broken link in the supply chain can stall a project.

This situation calls for a just-in-case inventory strategy. Now’s the time to plan ahead and think about the products you’ll need over the next several months so you can lock in that inventory now.

For example: If you know you’ll install 300 troffers in the next six months, Van Meter can work with you to purchase them in advance and release them to you in smaller quantities as needed. This approach saves you warehouse space and can also help avoid future price increases caused by inflation and heightened demand.

2. Consider New Purchasing Options

When you’ve been doing something the same way for a long time, it can be difficult to try something new; however, there are often viable alternatives to the usual products you’ve relied on in the past.

Perhaps you’ve used a specific foreign-made product for years because it seemed to be cheaper. But there may be American-made manufacturers offering the same type of product at the same—or better—price. (They may just be new-to-you manufacturers.)

3. Avoid the Gray Market

The gray market is made up of products being sold and purchased outside official distribution channels without the manufacturer’s authorization. This could include sources like Amazon or eBay—or other websites offering the product in question.

Van Meter is also seeing more products enter the United States without proper UL or CSA safety certifications (power distribution breakers are a good example). These products are usually easy to spot because they’re priced well below market value and need to move quickly. If the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is: You’re likely getting a product that lacks proper testing, warranty, or certification.

Buying from a distributor prevents this problem—you know you’re purchasing products through an authorized channel. This means you receive full service and support, warranties, and firmware and other updates.

4. Form Trusted Partnerships with Distributors

Working with a partner you can rely on will avoid unwelcome surprises. Instead of finding out there’s no inventory after you place an order, a distributor will keep you informed of the challenges ahead.

Through monitoring and forecasting expertise, your distributor should be able to anticipate problems early so they can be avoided. Your partner should also keep you updated on material shortages, cost increases, and lead times.

And because you’ve built a solid relationship, they’ll understand the types of projects you have on the horizon, the challenges you face, and possible solutions to overcome them.

With all the variables impacting the supply chain—everything from COVID-19 and shipping container shortages to hiring challenges—no one knows what’s waiting up ahead. But one thing we do know: Your job is to focus on upcoming projects, installation, and customer service—not worry about logistics. Time or money spent on these issues takes away from revenue-generating work.

That’s the power of partnering with a distributor like Van Meter. We know how to help you plan ahead, will keep you informed of upcoming roadblocks, and find solutions when your original strategy isn’t working. When you’ve got a partner you can rely on, you don’t have to wonder how you’ll get jobs done—you can focus on your business instead.

Do you have questions about what’s happening with the supply chain—or how it might impact you? Give us a call at 1-800-247-1410. We’re happy to share what we know.

charles dix van meter



Dix has been in the lighting industry since 1995. He joined Van Meter in 2021 as part of Werner Electric and works closely with customers on lighting projects, ROI calculations, and utility rebates.