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Problems and Delays in the Supply Chain | English Lesson

Feb 28, 2022

In today’s podcast, you will hear about the problems affecting the global supply chain. We’ll look at how long shipments are taking, and you will learn key vocabulary to discuss this crisis.

So, how have the delays in the supply chain affected your country? Do you know any exporters or importers who are directly affected? Have you seen empty shelves recently, or maybe you have had to wait a long time to receive a package?

There is no doubt that the effects are being felt all over the world. As the world globalized, we began to take for granted so-called “just in time” delivery. But now delivery times have doubled and tripled, and it leads to the question of whether shipping will get faster in the near term? Or will the world need to get used to living with longer times as we face new realities?

But first things first, here are some of the words you need to talk about the current supply chain crisis. I’ll use them a little later so you can hear them used in context.

VOCABULARY

  • Freight: goods transported in bulk by truck, train, ship, or airplane. A related word is “cargo”.
  • Gauge: device or formula for measuring the size, amount, or contents of something. In this case, a gauge is used to measure the length of time.
  • Glut: an excessively abundant supply of something. In this case, a glut of shipped merchandise.
  • Warehouse: a large building where raw materials or manufactured goods may be stored before their export or distribution for sale.
  • Longshoreman: a dockworker involved in loading and unloading cargo from ships.
  • Backlog: A backlog is a buildup of work that needs to be completed. In this case, a backlog of freight that needs to be delivered.

DISCUSSION

Our lesson this week is taken once again from the Economist Magazine, which published an article on Jan 22nd 2022, titled: Just how gummed up are supply chains?  Now, by “gummed up”, they mean disrupted. “Gummed up” comes from the idea of gum, like chewing gum for example. You know, something sticky. So, imagine what happens when you put sticky gum into any part of a process! When a process gets “gummed up” it slows down.  

So the question is: Just how gummed up are supply chains?  

And the argument the article makes is that the supply chain is pretty gummed up, indeed. The article makes the point that a number of different factors has disrupted the supply chain. A principal cause of the slowdown is of course Covid-19, which has made the people who work in the supply chain sick,  like truck drivers for example, or the longshoreman who load and unload the boats.   

Another reason behind some delays was a surge in demand for products – a sudden increase – a surge. Because even though Covid-19 kept people at home, people began to shop online. Demand boomed and a glut of undelivered merchandise began to accumulate in ports and warehouses all over the world. 

So, just how bad is the backlog? Well, the article cites a gauge that measures how long it takes a shipment to move from the supplier’s warehouse in China to the departure gate of the destination port in both Europe, and the United States. According to this gauge, three years ago the journey to Europe took just under 60 days, and the journey to the United States just under 50 days. Well, those travel times rose steadily after we were hit by Covid-19 and now, shipping times to Europe have jumped from 60 days to 108 days, and shipping times from China to the United States have risen from 50 days to 114 days. 

There is little sign that shipping times are improving, so we may be stuck with a backlog of merchandise accumulated at the ports for some time to come. Two variables to keep your eye on is the evolution of Covid and a possible change in consumption patterns. Maybe people will begin to buy fewer things, and they will begin to spend again on services like eating out at restaurants, or taking a trip. Reduce the demand, and you will speed up the process, clear the backlog and reduce the glut of merchandise. 

Okay.. did you catch all those new words? One last time: 

VOCABULARY REVIEW

  • Freight: goods transported in bulk by truck, train, ship, or airplane. A related word is “cargo”.
  • Gauge: device or formula for measuring the size, amount, or contents of something. In this case, a gauge is used to measure the length of time.
  • Glut: an excessively abundant supply of something. In this case, a glut of shipped merchandise.
  • Warehouse: a large building where raw materials or manufactured goods may be stored before their export or distribution for sale.
  • Longshoreman: a dockworker involved in loading and unloading cargo from ships.
  • Backlog: A backlog is a buildup of work that needs to be completed. In this case, a backlog of freight that needs to be delivered.

CONCLUSION

Okay. That’s all for this weeks’ podcast lesson. If you want to learn more vocabulary related to the Supply Chain, take a look at our lesson about Hedging Bets with Nearshoring. And, if you would like to request a particular topic to cover for our next lesson, you can do so here.

 

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