By Jamaal Baribeau, Director of Equipment, University of St. Thomas
Questions provided by Zach Richards

What is going on within the supply chain right now? 

The supply chain is just a mess – from manufacturing to getting the items off the shipping containers.  

What factors are contributing to the issues in the supply chain currently?

We’re at the mercy of a lot of variables, COVID19, Governments, people not being able to find work, or not wanting to work.

Click below to get a current map of all the ships waiting to dock.

In what ways has covid impacted the supply chain and how it operates in the short term and in the long-term future?

In the short term, things are not available ASAP. I don’t think we will recover for in the short term supply chain for the next 3-5 years. In the long term, you attempt to plan as far ahead as possible with the ability to pivot.  If a company can’t get product A, you’d go with product B, and so on. Having about 4-5 different road maps to get you to the destination is probably going to be your best shot at having something close to what you want for your team and players and staff.

Have any new processes been created, because of the pandemic to improve the supply chain?

To my knowledge no. For myself in my position, I’m looking at every possible solution for the upcoming season.

How long will this supply chain crisis likely last? When will things go back to “normal”?

There is no longer a “normal.”  As soon as society can realize this, and move forward, we will be better off. I personally don’t think we will be back to the old normal ever again. We will need to be adapt and think outside of the norms we’re use to.

What is your biggest fear regarding the supply chain in the long-term future?

My biggest fear is that small mom & pop shops will stop existing or be absorbed by the corporate machine which is big business.

What countries have been hit hardest by the current supply chain crisis?

I don’t have a solid number but a lot of items we consume are produced in second and third world countries and they don’t have the medical advancement that we a do as a North American country. And when you don’t have access to health care during a pandemic, things tend to come to a halt. People’s lives and safety are way more important that products.

What do you think are some possible solutions to the current supply chain crisis?

I honestly feel we will see companies move some production factories to North American areas. This way products can be made and shipped with in North America. Issues will always arise, but we know what’s going on within the country, via customer service, or other information outlets

How have you handled your operations differently because of the current supply chain crisis?

The big thing I’ve had to do was find other solutions, online vendors, local shops, Amazon, eBay.

Have you had any major takeaways from dealing with the current supply chain crisis that you’d like to share?

The biggest thing I’ve learned with maneuvering through this, is some people care and are understanding and some people don’t care and just want their products.

What has been the hardest piece of equipment to obtain because of the current crisis?

As the Director of Equipment for the entire University, I’ve had to pivot on the following items, shoes, coats, and goalie equipment. I’ve spoken with a lot of equipment managers and we’re all running into the same issues, just with different products.

What has been the most difficult part about the supply chain crisis regarding your job?

Attempting to figure out answers. I’m always second guessing everything, then I find a partial solution. Also, the shipping charges are crushing me.   You wait so long for your original order to show up and it’s delayed for the second or third time and you have to get something here so you’re forced to ship via next day or 2nd day for your items. And sometimes once you’ve done that, your original order then shows up with you 2nd day order.

What has been the most frustrating part about the supply chain crisis?

Providing the answer to the question we’re all getting right now, “Do you know when (insert item/s) are/is going to show up?”

Has the crisis impacted each hockey school in the same way? Or have some had an easier time than others?

I believe everybody is hurting in some way or another with skates, sticks, goalie gear and apparel.  We’re all doing our best to outfit our teams to look good and be able to perform day in and day out.

How have the players responded to the current challenges presented by the crisis?

Personally, some understand, and some don’t and the ones that don’t understand need a little education on how the world is hurting right and how some areas of the world don’t have the same health care and protocols that we have implemented in North America and within the hockey world. A lot of that comes with our societies’ instant gratification for when we want something.

Are there any new supply chain issues you foresee arising in the future? (Short term or long term)?

I think custom goods like apparel from Nike, Adidas will start having longer timelines, 2-3 years down the road or they’ll get rid of custom goods all together and just say here are your choices. I think the 4–6-month timelines will be a thing of the past for a lot of companies.

How much stress has the supply chain crisis put on you personally?

While at Clarkson University, I would’ve only had to deal with sticks being an issue based on how we ordered there. I built up an inventory of items just “incase” and they’re coming in handy for my former co-worker George Frank.

Since I have taken a new position at University of St. Thomas, and we’re elevating from division three from division one, I must build the entire department; most division three schools don’t keep a lot of extra items on hand so I’m constantly attempting to find product while building up extra inventory. As soon as something comes in its going right out the door to one sport or another. So, we face the stress of who needs these items NOW and can I put these items away until we really need them?

How have the schools/institutions gotten involved (if at all) when issues arise because of the crisis?

Speaking from my side with my institution we’re competing so we need items. I’ve spent a lot of my time off searching the twin cities looking for products. The Dicks Sporting Goods company and Nike Store in my area know me by my first name now. Having the support of the school is great. They understand we may not get the discount, but we have the items we need to make it work for now.

Has there been a difference in which companies/brands have a better handle and can deliver goods more quickly? Or have all companies/brands struggled the same?

I think some companies have handled it well, some terribly, but its all about how those companies put certain people in those spots and how they handle the constant questions or delivering the bad news. I think being upfront with most people works best. I have some vendors that wont even return a text, call or email, sometimes I can go weeks without hearing anything.

What’s the biggest thing people should learn from the current supply chain crisis?

The best advice I can give is treat everyone how you want to be treated if the roles were reversed. Just take everyday as it comes and just do your best. You’re not going to make everyone happy, but as long as you can provide some type of answer good or bad, you’ve don’t your part. The motto I use is “My plans, B, C, and D are going to make my plan A work.”

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