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Karl W. Smith

Supply-Chain Crisis? What Supply-Chain Crisis?

Delays in shipping and delivery in the U.S. have more to do with strong demand than with strains in the global system.

That’s a lot of containers.

That’s a lot of containers.

Photographer: Apu Gomes/AFP

One of the big lessons of this pandemic, supposedly, is the need for more resilient supply chains. The story goes something like this: In an effort to drive down costs, manufacturers and retailers cultivated gossamer-thin networks dependent on low-priced, just-in-time shipping from around the world. That lithe approach boosted profits when times were good — but when a crisis hit, it snapped.

There’s only one problem with this story: Very little of it is true. There were major supply problems in 2021 in the world in general and the U.S. in particular, but they had little to do with the chains.