A snow industry supplier is warning professional contractors of potential equipment and supply chain shortages brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Traditionally, orders for plows, spreaders and other snow fighting equipment -- including associated replacement parts – begin to heat up in late summer. Kent Winter, founder and CEO of Cleveland-based Winter Equipment, warns contractors could experience supply issues.
“This pandemic has greatly impacted the supply chain,” Winter said in a statement released this week. “Not only is there a concern for manufacturing capacity, logistics issues are also playing a role in the timely delivery of materials.”
According to the company, low-bid purchasing has moved many products and supplies in recent years to foreign countries such as China. Snowplow components, particularly a large portion of carbide inserts for snowplow blades, fall into this category. With the COVID-19 pandemic, world manufacturing stopped for three months, which means that when compared to last year, up to one-quarter of supplies produced or delivered are not available or will be delayed this year. Combine this with the expected supply chain interruption of raw materials sourced primarily from steel mills and rubber manufacturers in China, the potential for many products to be in short supply is expected.
Low-bid suppliers also typically operate on low profit margins and have even less capital to inventory products, according to the company. This also means increased lead times or no inventory at all. For overseas suppliers that do have inventory, container shipments are estimated to be running three months behind on delivery.
“Municipalities and contractors must be prepared for the snow season ahead of us,” Winter stated. “It’s likely that snowplow equipment may be in short or delayed supply. By ordering your equipment early, manufacturers can get orders into manufacturing and on their delivery schedules.”
In March, Winter Equipment proactively purchased materials to ensure adequate supply of raw materials, Winter added.
Brian Smith, COO of Cleveland-based Buyers Products/SnowDogg, said even though the pandemic has strained global supply chains, if contractors rely on dealers and distributors who have access to a reliable supplier (such as Buyers) they should feel confident going into the season.
“In times of uncertainty it’s never a bad idea to plan ahead and make equipment purchases early,” Smith said, adding the company has taken measures to strengthen its supply line and inventory. “Make sure you take a look at all your options feature-for-feature; don’t just rely on a brand or a logo. Find a dealer that has the equipment you need available when you need it, at the price that you are willing to pay. It is also possible that there will be supply disruptions within the industry due to the ever-changing impacts of COVID-19. We would suggest that contractors check their equipment much earlier in 2020 to help mitigate/eliminate these issues.”
And with regard to the availability of replacement parts, Smith recommends snow professionals stock up on the wear parts they anticipate they’ll need this coming season winter season.
“Most of the time the aftermarket parts brands like SAM (Snowplow Aftermarket Manufacturing) parts offer are just as high of quality as OEM parts,” Smith said. “In times of economic uncertainty make sure you do everything you can to help your dollar go further.”
Mike Zawacki is editor of Snow Magazine