Recruitment and logistics hurt the supplier even after he pulls the work close to home

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a special “Help Needed” section running in the October 4th issue that details the lengths the auto companies will find new workers.

The auto industry has been talking about “resettlement” in recent years as if it were a kind of national movement — pulling manufacturing jobs to the United States from China, Indonesia and Mexico as a way to prop up the American economy.

Gary Craft wishes it were that simple.

“We just moved a lot of business from Mexico to our factory in Gadsden, Ala., because the company there couldn’t get enough people to do the work,” said Kraft, sales manager at Koller-Craft South. “They were having problems getting staff. Once their product reached the border, the trucks stayed there for five to seven days because of staffing issues at the border.”

Koller-Craft, a Tier 2 forming and assembly machine for components that include trim parts, decorative parts, cup holder assemblies and door handle assemblies, is adding 15-20 people to its 170-employee Gadsden factory to accommodate overtime.

Cross-border shipments have been a vexing problem for suppliers like Koller-Craft long before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in early 2020. The Trump administration’s trade war between the US and China Introduced new unknowns into global supply chains In 2018. Tariffs on steel imports also changed some supply chain equations. Border closures and congestion caused by the pandemic have also further complicated logistics.

But suppliers in many areas say the key issue this year was simply having enough workers to manufacture parts and pass them on to their customers.

It’s just being able to get truck drivers,” said Kraft, whose name came by chance for his employer. “There are times when we have had to call our customers and say, ‘We won’t be able to get a truck out today because we can’t get a truck driver. We’ll get a truck tomorrow. “”

The industry was already worrying Truck driver shortage before the outbreak of the epidemic. But then it got worse. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last month that US trucking employment is no longer from the pandemic’s decline and more than 30,000 people are still fewer than they were in February 2020.

Kraft added that staffing and logistics challenges are also raising the flags for quality in the supply chain.

“We’ve had some quality issues with companies that they didn’t have 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 the ground up.”

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