Staffing and logistics pinch Ala’s supplier. even after bringing work closer to home


Editor’s Note: This story is part of a special “Help Wanted” section published in the October 4 edition that details how long automakers will find new workers.

The auto industry has been talking about “relocation” in recent years as if it were some kind of patriotic movement – taking manufacturing jobs in the United States from China, Indonesia and the United States. Mexico to strengthen the US economy.

Garry Craft wishes it were that simple.

“We just moved a lot of business from Mexico to our factory in Gadsden, Alabama, because the company there couldn’t recruit enough people to do the job,” said Craft, sales manager at Koller. -Craft South. “They were struggling to find employees. And once their product got to the border, the trucks were there for five to seven days due to staffing issues at the border.”

Koller-Craft, a Level 2 component moulder and assembler including interior trim, decorative parts, cup holder sets and door handle sets, adds 15-20 people to its 170-employee Gadsden plant to absorb the extra work.

Cross-border shipments have been a thorny issue for vendors like Koller-Craft long before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in early 2020. The Trump administration’s trade war between the United States and China has introduced new unknowns into global supply chains in 2018. Tariffs on steel imports have further altered some supply chain equations. And border closures and traffic jams due to the pandemic have further complicated logistics.

But suppliers in many areas say the main problem this year has simply been having enough workers to make parts and get them to their customers.

“It’s just a matter of being able to hire truck drivers,” said Craft, whose name coincides with that of his employer. “There were times when we had to call our client and say, ‘We can’t get a truck out today because we can’t have a truck driver. We will have a truck tomorrow. ‘ “

The industry was already worried about a shortage of truck drivers before the pandemic arrived. But then it got worse. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last month that trucking employment in the United States has not recovered from its pandemic decline and remains more than 30,000 people below its February 2020 workforce.

Staffing and logistics issues also raise quality flags in a supply chain, Craft added.

“We have had quality issues with companies that have never had any before,” he said. “And that’s because they’ve lost some of their experienced talent. New employees are coming in who have to learn the product from scratch.”

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