Within circles of men that carry handguns, the understanding is “Two is one and One is none.” This advice implies carrying two handguns is a safe bet that you will have one that works. One handgun is like carrying none due to Murphy’s Law that something will always go wrong with the gun you have when you need it.
Due to Covid 19 sickness, supply chain constraints and price inflation; this advice can be applied to those living on the farm. Individually, Covid 19 sickness, supply chain constraints and price inflation would be a problem to be concerned with, but when you confront all three of these issues at one time, it becomes almost impossible to productively operate a farm business.
This point hammered home to me when I went to purchase a replacement part for my 15 feet wide batwing. Typically, this would not have been a major ordeal. I would take the part to the dealer, they would look the part up on their computer and, if in stock, I would pay for it and then take the part home. If not in stock, they would order the part, it would arrive within a couple of days, I would pay for the part, take it home and continue my work. The whole process generally took no longer than 3 or 4 days.
Yesterday’s visit was somewhat different.
To begin, the usual parts person was out sick. Technically, they were out with Covid 19. It wasn’t that they were sick with Covid 19, they had already quarantined at home for 14 days a month ago for being exposed to someone that had tested positive for Covid 19. Now, they continued to be off of work because they had three children and school was closed. School was closed because the number of students that tested positive for Covid 19 was on the rise, and the administration chose to cancel classes to prevent the spread or “flatten the curve” of Covid for a period of time. No date was given when classes would resume. The employee had been out from work for almost four weeks with no idea when they would return to work. Other employees from the firm were experiencing the same type of situations.
Well, apparently, one monkey can’t stop a show, but several monkeys can. Not only was one parts person out but both people in the parts department, one salesman and the bookkeeper was out with Covid 19 or Covid related. The receptionist and one sales person were attempting to run the entire store, by themselves, and it was a madhouse.
After waiting for an extended length of time, my turn with the salesperson finally came around. When I told her I was there for a batwing part, she apologized in advance because she had very little experience using the parts computer and it may take her a while to help me. This was not welcoming news to the other customers that had begun to accumulate and overheard her remark to me.
With time and with a tremendous amount of patience on my part, she found the part I needed. Of course, it wasn’t in stock, they would have to order it. She asked “did I want to order it?” My reply was yes, how long would it take to come in?
I didn’t realize the scope of what I thought was a simple question!
The sales person stated the parts inventory list reflected the company had one…mind you one, for a giant global manufacturer, in stock and available for all of the stores in the United States. She would have to email their distributor to have someone “put their hands on it” before she could answer that question. And hopefully, it was not already “sold” and the inventory software was accurate. She continued “ if the part wasn’t available, it would have to be ordered from China. And she had been told the manufacturer of parts in China had been closed for quite some time because of the Covid virus.” She continued to tell me, as if it was a secrete, “Covid 19 was started in China”.
Feeling the eyes of the growing number of customers on my back, I reminded her of my original question, how long would it take to come in? She stated that if the part was put on a ship today, with the time it takes for a ship to travel to the United States and once in line behind the scores of ships currently waiting to be unloaded, there was no way of determining when it would arrive. She added they were still waiting on parts that had been promised for delivery nine months ago.
While she was talking, she received an email stating the one part in the entire company inventory was NOT available. She would have to order it.
Just my luck! I quickly told her to order it and asked her how much would it be. She said their distributor used to have a slight price increase of maybe one or two percent a year but lately, with fewer parts being made, the difficulty with the supply chain and the inflation everyone was beginning to experience, prices had been going up much more rapidly. She said that on other parts provided by this distributor, their prices had been increasing 2 or 3 percent per MONTH. And due to the increase in cost passed along by the carriers, shipping costs were rising almost as much. Thus, she was unable to tell me how much the part would cost until it arrived. “Do you still want me to order the part?”
After this experience, my eyes have been opened, and I now notice how much more vulnerable I am as a farmer. I now apply a different thought process for my farm business. It goes something like this.
- Is the thing I need vital in my operation?
- Is it something that wears out quickly or must be replaced often?
- What happens if I don’t have the item? How long can I go without it?
- Are there any substitutes?
- Can I afford to purchase duplicates of the item to keep in my stock?
- How well does the item store?
- How expensive is the item?
Thus, if I determine I really need an item, and if I can find it in stock and can afford it, I will buy as many as I can. Because with problems resulting from Covid 19, disruption of the supply chain and price inflation, I realize if I will need it, and I can find it, I buy it. I too, understand that “one is none and two is one.”