Supply Chain Horror Stories – Part One
By: Anna Popov
Supply Chain Horror Stories – Part One
By: Anna Popov
There is no denying that the last few years have been tough on the world. In more ways than one, we have had more than our fair share of difficulties and the design world is no different. If you were involved in any kind of renovation, remodel or construction then you know what we are talking about. The dreaded interruptions to the supply chain worldwide caught us all off guard and led to price fluctuations, product and material shortages, shipping delays, skilled labor shortages, budget constraints and a large dose of high-pressure decision making. The rule book was tossed straight out the window as we had to adapt, pivot, reselect, rethink, find solutions and problem solve our way through a very rocky time. However, as the industry recovers, and we see light at the end of the tunnel, the team and I decided to reminisce on some of our ‘favorite’ supply chain horror stories from over the last few years just in time for Halloween. I will start, read at your own risk!
ANNA – SCREAM (For Your Appliances)
In early 2021, we were right in the middle of a beautiful kitchen remodel in Redmond WA. Appliances were ordered way in advance and the ETA’s showed them arriving right on schedule. But as the weeks went by, those ETAs kept getting pushed out further and further. The project was getting closer to completion and still no sign of them. So, we got on the phone and called around. We searched high and low but there were no appliances to be found anywhere without 6-month long lead times. We ended up arranging for temporary appliances to be installed so our clients could use their new kitchen that they had waited so long for. It ended up taking almost a year for those appliances to finally arrive. And don’t even get me started on their kitchen drawer organizers, they are still not in place!
ERICA – THE CHANDELIER THAT NEVER WAS
We started working on a lovely design project for a great family in early 2021. We had designed elements of almost every room in the house even though it was not a full-scale remodel. All the decorative items were ordered at the same time; rugs, light fixtures, furniture and artwork. As they started to trickle in, the dining room chandelier (which was one of my absolute favorite items for this house) was showing as delayed in our weekly expediting reports, but we had no idea for how long. Then one week it updates, showing an ETA of 6 weeks. Ok, we can wait 6 weeks, so we discuss with the homeowners and wait out the time. As the end of the 6 weeks approached, we got an update that the ETA would be another 6 weeks. Then in June we find out that it would not be available until November! Our clients had waited so long at this point and the rest of their items had arrived and were installed at their home. It was time to give up on the chandelier, no matter how beautiful it was, and find our clients something new. I still hope to use that chandelier one day!
MICHAELA – THE DECORATIVE SIDE TABLE MASSACRE
As the Office Administrator here at IBP, I get to see some amazing furniture be presented to our clients and watch the design process unfold before my eyes. I remember a very large presentation being laid out for final review in Fall of 2021 and it was so big that it filled the entire floor of our conference room. I stopped in to take some pictures for our records and there they were; a beautiful set of side tables; curvy, modern and oh so stylish – I was instantly in love. Fast forward 8 months (yes, I said 8 months!) and the tables arrived, hooray………but they were the wrong ones. Ok, not to worry, vendor made an error and immediately shipped us the right ones and a few weeks later they finally arrived………damaged. It was so sad. We arranged for a new set of tables to be produced and thankfully the vendor was able to expedite them for us and they are now sitting proudly at the residence for all to see, albeit 10 months later!
YINGFEI – THE CONJURING (of the bathtub)
Whilst working on the design of a master bathroom project this Summer, I heard the story of the cancelled bathtub. With the demo finished and the new construction well under way for a small bathroom remodel, all the construction materials and plumbing fixtures were on on-site, except the bathtub. The bathtub had been delayed but we had been assured that it was on the way and would be delivered in the next 5-7 days – perfect timing. 7 days passed and the bathtub did not appear. So, we stepped into gear to find out where it was and what had gone wrong only to get a notification that the order for the bathtub had been cancelled by the manufacturer, no explanation, no alternative, just cancelled. Anna and the team rang around and checked stock and availability of bathtubs from near and far. It took a few days, and a few called in favors, we even tried to get a floor model as a temporary fix, but they finally ‘conjured’ up a tub from nowhere that would work; correct size, finish and style. The problem was solved but not without a little heartache.
TATIANA – NIGHTMARE ON SHOWER VALVE STREET
My ‘favorite’ supply chain horror story has the be the shower valve handle kit tale that will go down in IBP history. You may not know this but the cover plate that covers a shower valve is often sold separately from the handle kit that turns the water hot or cold or diverts it to the shower head or hand shower. These items go together so they are always ordered together in the same finish. The shower valve plate arrived as expected but the handle kit did not. It was continually delayed with an ETA that never came as it was constantly being pushed out. This brand, style and finish of handle kit was sold out and unavailable worldwide, and trust me, we looked high and low. Now we had a finished bathroom with a shower that the client could not use and that was just unacceptable to us. The solution – we found a handle kit available in a different finish. We ordered it right away and had it installed. Our clients were at least able to shower with their two-tone matte black and gold shower valve while we waited for the right one to show up, which it did, months later.
FIONA - THE MEDINA MIRROR DELIVERY TRIALS
We ordered 3 gorgeous full-length mirrors from a vendor based out of CA in the Fall of 2021. These mirrors were for 2 separate projects, so the timing was crucial to align with both schedules. We were waiting a very long time for any kind of ETA so we followed up regularly and were told they were being produced and would be available very soon. Fast forward to Spring 2022, 5 months later and there is still no word of the mirror’s arrival in Seattle. After much investigation, it was determined that the mirrors were ready to be shipped and we all did a happy dance. The delivery date was scheduled, the delivery date came and went. The delivery was rescheduled, the rescheduled date came and went. I was finally able to get the phone number of the delivery driver who told me that he could not deliver the mirrors to us because his semi-truck was too big to enter our street and parking lot. So, I gathered the team, we got in our cars and drove to a larger area where the semi-truck could meet us, loaded the mirrors into our trunks and took them to the office ourselves. Sometimes, in tough trials, you just have to get it done yourself.
CAELIN – PARANORMAL INACTIVITY (and a ton of patience)
We had a project that got hit particularly badly with supply chain problems. This family waited extended periods of time for almost every item and at times it seemed that the project was never going to end. They were running out of patience, and we were working so hard on their behalf to get the project finished, it was tough. Their dining table was ordered but had been at a standstill for months and months; no activity, no updates, just that it was on the way – definitely not normal! We proceeded with not 1 but 2 furniture installations for this family over the course of 6 months and still there was no dining room table. Imagine having all new furniture, 8 new stunning dining chairs and your old dining table that has seen better days stuck in the middle of it all. Finally, after what felt like forever, their table arrived in Seattle, and we could arrange that last install and finish everything out.
TOMO – HOCUS POCUS (Get the Wooden Flooring off the Cargo Ship)
I had not long started at IBP when I heard the (horror) story of the pallet of stunning, high-end solid walnut flooring that had delayed an entire project. We were working on a renovation that required new wooden flooring. We specified an exquisite walnut floor that was going to elevate this home and be the backdrop of luxury that would enhance the furniture, lighting and accessory pieces. We ordered the floor in February 2021 with a 12-week lead-time which is not unusual for a very special flooring like this one. The flooring did in fact arrive in 12 weeks BUT it arrived on a cargo ship that sat in a port on San Francisco for almost 3 more months. All we could find out was that the ship was waiting to dock and when it did, it would need to then wait to be unloaded and there was no timeline for this. We could have used a magic spell from the Sanderson Sisters to get that flooring off that boat.
I always tell the team here at IBP, design is not life or death. If a plumbing fixture is late, it will be ok. If an item arrives damaged, we will manage it. It is not a question of whether problems will arise, it is a question of when they will arise because they always do. I will say that the last few years have been more challenging and like a crash course in procurement and project management. But I consider us stronger for it as we have learned to focus on solutions, that is our goal every time. I am glad we can look back at these stories now and poke a little fun at ourselves.
Tune in for Part 2 where we will be discussing how these difficulties are managed and how having a design firm do this complex work on your behalf is the best choice.
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