Medicines, furniture, microchips These products are currently experiencing supply bottlenecks
Bonn · Due to the pandemic, the Ukraine war and rising energy costs, products in the supermarket are out of stock faster. There are also always parts missing for production. Where are the current delivery problems? An overview.
When it comes to delivering goods on time and in sufficient quantities, the world situation is not the best at the moment: there are still gaps in the supply chains due to the Corona pandemic, many container ships are stuck in Chinese ports due to the People's Republic's zero-covid strategy, and the Ukraine war is also making it difficult to transport products. Goods arrive late or in the wrong quantities. Added to this are increased energy costs and the shortage of raw materials, making production difficult for many companies. "It will probably be months before global supply chains return to their usual pace," Stefan Genth, chief executive of the German Retail Association (HDE), told GA. "Things can get tight if customers want to buy a product in a very specific version.“
The good news is that empty shelves in retail stores, for example, are not to be expected. According to Genth, many retail companies have turned to alternative routes and suppliers. Nevertheless, patience is more often required until an order can be delivered to the customer's home, or one or the other product is out of stock more quickly. And of course prices are rising in many places. In an overview, the GA shows where delivery problems or vacancies can currently be observed.
Individual supermarket products
Empty shelves are rare, but every now and then there are goods that are particularly often out of stock. One example is certain soy products that were not available for a while, says Till Bornstedt, a trade expert from the Bonn/Rhein-Sieg Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK). In addition, "hoarding purchases lead to shortages of certain products again and again". In Germany, this recently affected noodles, cooking oil and flour. The reason was supply difficulties from Ukraine, which is an important supplier of cooking oil for Germany, and the Russian export bans on grain from Ukraine, which drove up prices worldwide. Recently, the paper industry also spoke out: toilet paper could - once again - be in short supply. Not because of hoarding, but because production is dependent on gas.
Drinks in glass bottles
In summer, glass bottles are in short supply anyway, because people drink a lot and often don't take their crates of beer and juice back to the beverage market. This year, the situation is exacerbated because the production of new bottles is also struggling. Glass production is particularly energy-intensive - and is faltering in the face of high energy prices. The result: "Many manufacturers no longer fill certain types of beverage at all," observes Werner Vendel, owner of Bonn-based Getränke-Service Vendel. "The 0.3-litre bottle of Coca Cola has not been available for weeks now." The shortage also affects many niche products, such as vegan drinks: "Manufacturers often didn't fill them so that they could at least still produce their main brand." Because of the hot summer, mineral water was also very popular. For a while, some of his suppliers had run out of still water, says Vendel. But he was able to switch to medium water. In the beer industry, on the other hand, there is often no alternative. Since almost every brand has a unique glass shape, producers often cannot simply fill their beverages into a different container. This affects small breweries in particular, says Vendel. In addition, crown corks currently cost about four times the normal price.
Many medicines in Germany come from China via container ships. However, due to the strict corona lockdowns, many ships could not leave their ports. This has led to bottlenecks in recent months, as reported by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM). Fever juice for children with paracetamol or ibuprofen is still in short supply. The BfArM also explains this with an above-average demand for fever juices this summer; in addition, an important manufacturer has withdrawn from the market. In addition, there is a distribution problem in the trade. Should the juice really not be available, patients with a doctor's prescription can have an individual prescription made at the pharmacy.
A well-known drug against strokes is also more difficult to obtain. The manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim recently sent out a letter announcing a shortage until 2023. However, the supply difficulties have nothing to do with China, Boehringer explains: rather, the demand for thrombolytics is increasing and the company cannot keep up with production.
Microchips and semiconductors
For two years now, there have been enormous supply bottlenecks for microchips and the basic material they are made of: semiconductors. Chips are important components in cars, smartphones, computers and medical equipment, for example, for which there are now repeated waiting times. The pandemic was the decisive factor: at the beginning of the crisis, many carmakers cancelled their orders with chip manufacturers because they feared a collapse in demand. But the market recovered faster than expected - except that in the meantime chip manufacturers had turned to consumer electronics, which boomed thanks to Corona. In addition, there were US sanctions against China in the chip technology sector. China had therefore bought up large quantities of available chips and equipment in one fell swoop. A recovery in production is currently not in sight. Not least because the military threat situation from China is intensifying around Taiwan, the most important chip-producing country.
Toys and leisure articles
An evaluation by the Ifo Institute last May shows that 100 per cent of the toy retailers surveyed report a lack of deliveries. DIY stores and bicycle dealers are similarly affected. And not only because many bicycles are made in China, says IHK expert Bornstedt: "In Corona times, demand has far exceeded the supply of bicycles." Running shoes and football boots are also in short supply in Bonn's sports shops: well-known brand manufacturers such as Adidas, Nike and Puma are badly affected by the shortages. At peak times such as the upcoming Christmas season, games and leisure articles could sometimes be completely out of stock, the HDE announced in August. Products with electronic components are also affected by the lack of chips, and wooden toys by the shortage of wood. Retailers have already ordered their Christmas business, says Bornstedt from the IHK. But: "Many are worried that the goods will not arrive in time." Container ships from China usually take at least four weeks.
According to the Ifo Institute's evaluation, 95 per cent of manufacturers of electrical household appliances and consumer electronics such as televisions and game consoles are having delivery problems. The reason for this is, on the one hand, the chip shortage and, on the other, the traffic jam in China's ports. "There are problems with almost all products with Chinese components at the moment," observes Karina Kröber of City-Marketing Bonn e.V. As managing director of the hearing acoustics and optician shop "Kröber Hören und Sehen" in Bonn, she notices the shortage of electrical parts on a small scale: for example, charging adapters for the devices are in short supply. For some products, however, there are replacements. And: "In the meantime, we get regular updates from the manufacturers when products are threatening to become scarce - that wasn't the case in the past.“
Furniture and textiles
Here, too, the dependence on China is evident: many furniture, but also fashion retailers are currently finding it more difficult to get their goods in time and in sufficient quantities. According to a survey by the Ifo Institute in June, textile manufacturers expect the shortage to last for the next twelve months, furniture manufacturers expect it to last at least eight months. This has already made itself felt at the Swedish furniture giant Ikea. The company writes on its website: "Ongoing disruptions, congested ports and historically high demand have led to restrictions in our operations. We are still facing transport bottlenecks, which is impacting availability and delivery." To counteract this, Ikea is buying its own containers, chartering additional ships and relying more on rail transport between China and Europe, he said.
Anyone who wants to build or renovate a house knows the problem: there is a shortage of building materials everywhere. Wood, steel and insulating materials such as plastic have already been scarce and expensive since the pandemic. The situation is aggravated by interrupted supply chains and rising demand in China and the USA, where the economy has picked up faster than expected. And concrete is also only available at very high prices. The reason for this is the shortage of sand, which is needed in large quantities in concrete production.
Original text: Nina Bärschneider
Translation: Mareike Graepel