When will supply chains be fixed? Experts provide some clues

www.latimes.com
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COVID-19 led to logjams at ports and borders that continue to ripple through many parts of our economy and everyday life. When will it get better?
Wondering why everything from cars and refrigerators to books and toys are in short supply? Blame the fouled up supply chain that connects manufacturers around the world with the makers and assemblers of their component parts, as well as with the consumers and businesses that buy the finished goods. The problem emerged shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and it's seemed to get only worse since then.

How did we get into this mess? And why isn't it getting better? The Times reached out to some supply chain experts, and here are their answers.

What, exactly, is 'the supply chain'?

Manufacturers in the U.S. and the rest of the industrialized world have long outsourced the production of common and low-cost products to China and other low-wage countries. But starting in the 1970s, companies outsourced the production of an increasing number of more sophisticated products, often using multiple contractors to produce and then assemble the components.

Here's how it typically works: A company based in the U.S. will design and put the finishing touches on a product but will turn to one or more foreign manufacturers for raw materials and components if that will significantly cut the cost to build and deliver it. For example, according to the American University Auto Index, roughly half of each Dodge Ram 1500 truck that rolled out of a U.S. auto plant last year came from outside the U.S. and Canada.

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Some companies forgo having U.S. factories altogether, using contractors to assemble their products from the pieces made by subcontractors. With or without a U.S. plant, a company that relies on a far-flung supply chain requires some combination of planes, ships, trucks and warehouses to pull its products together and store the inventory.

Global supply chains are especially prevalent in durable goods (such as cars and appliances), tech products (such as cellphones and computers), clothing, footwear, textiles, furniture and plastic goods. And although…
Jon Healey, Samantha Masunaga
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