VERNON, Calif. — The Port of Long Beach has just announced its second busiest October ever. It might have set a new record were it not for the limited capacity at marine terminals which hampered imports. It seems nearly every sector of the supply chain is just about maxed out.
That's certainly the case at one warehouse in Vernon, where day or night, the work never stops. And no matter what time it is, it's always cold. That’s because the co-founder of Boa Logistics, Matthew Mugar, decided to corner a niche part of the supply chain: refrigerated freight.
The fresh produce, food and juice handled by Boa will go to grocery stores all around the country. Some of it is grown locally. A lot is shipped from overseas, and that’s where the headache begins.
The massive backlog at the ports doesn’t end once stuff gets on land.
There’s a lot of cargo to move and only so many people and machines to do the work. What that means is it takes more time to deliver, and the whole process costs more money. While it’s painful enough to explain to loyal customers why prices are shooting up, it’s also hard turning clients down.
“We used to have a motto when we first started the business: Say yes to everything and figure it out later, right? And in this current market, you can’t say yes to everything,” said Mugar.
They are stretched to the limit, and Mugar needs help, but even that is a struggle. Many applicants don’t even show up for the job interview.
Some believe there just isn’t enough manpower to keep the supply chain running smoothly.
Vice President of Operations at Junction Collaborative Transports Ian Weiland says there’s another problem. He works with more than 100 drivers who are bringing him their used and empty containers. In fact, he has several yards full of them. They should be returned to the ports, but space there is limited. While international manufacturers need the containers, the truckers need the metal frames that are sitting underneath, or they can’t haul anything.
“That chassis is gold, so if you look outside and you look at those things as a piece of gold, yeah that’s a lot of frustration,” said Weiland.
In an effort to clear space in the port complex, shipping companies will be charged starting Nov. 15 for containers that linger. The container excess dwell fee starts at $100 and increases each day.
It takes strict scheduling to prevent a pileup at the Vernon warehouse.
In the mad rush, the delicate dance between speed and quality control is difficult. Perishable goods are shipped in specialty air-conditioned containers. Mugar says more and more containers are arriving damaged. A small hole or a malfunction in the wiring could spoil an entire shipment, which is a setback at a really crucial time.
“To be honest with you, it’s been quite an adventure,” said Mugar.
Ready or not, the shipments don’t stop.