Global supply chain issues reach American Amish furniture makers

With its furniture crafted by a few dozen rural American workshops and in-house artisans, Arcola, Illinois, manufacturer Simply Amish seems far removed from the global supply chain tensions that have plagued most businesses.

But the seller of handmade tables, chairs and beds, renowned for its clean, simple lines and old-fashioned sturdiness, has seen its costs soar as volatility in timber markets has driven up prices. price of the wood used to manufacture its products.

Lead times for Simply Amish deliveries to dealers have also increased dramatically, even though the company sources maple, cherry and other hardwoods within 500 miles of its factory in central Illinois. The furniture also includes pieces like knobs and handles whose vendors import them from Asia, as well as table slides from Germany, items that have been bottlenecked at ports and others. submerged distribution centers.

The problems of a seemingly small domestic supply chain, which dates back to a time before offshoring and other pillars of globalization, suggest how deeply embedded global sourcing is in manufacturing. The problems faced by Amish furniture stores and the sellers of their products also highlight the challenges companies face in trying to become more resilient to global disruption by bringing production closer to home.

“Even domestic operations depend on foreign materials,” said Simply Amish owner Kevin Kauffman. “Supply chain is truly a global issue and it’s one you won’t fix overnight.”

Mike Miller, operations manager of the Smithville, Ohio-based online Amish Outlet Store, says his network of Amish builders provides sturdy beds, dining sets and outdoor furniture made from North American hardwoods. Americans. But lead times for the company and suppliers to fulfill orders have dropped from three months to nine months, he said, due to shortages of locally sourced and imported components. Some of the material and fabric of the manufacturers, for example, comes from Asia and Germany.

Builders have also been hit by rising costs for their base materials.

Lumber prices have fluctuated wildly over the past two years as demand for home goods, including furniture, has soared, stretching sawmill capacity and causing supply shortages and higher costs. . Two-by-four futures prices hit record highs in May 2021 as the pandemic housing boom took off, then fell sharply the following summer, only to rise again in the fall and winter of last year. .

Sharp swings in commodity markets have reached into the real world, with daily trading limits slowing the flow of real lumber and forcing traders to hold on to timber as a buffer against potential losses, compounding the supply crunch.

Mr. Kauffman of Simply Amish said maple prices have risen 70% during the pandemic, while the price of cherries and some others have risen 25%.

“What started as global has made its way to small, local artisans in the Midwest.”

— Mike Miller, Amish Factory Outlet

Cost increases have reached showrooms and online stores. The retail price of a bed at the Amish Outlet Store, for example, jumped from $2,300 to $3,300 in six months, Miller said.

“What started out as global made its way to small, local artisans in the Midwest,” he said.

The broader US furniture market has become a prime example of the globalization of US supply chains over the past two decades.

Less than half of wood furniture sold in the United States in 2002 was imported, but the import share reached 86% in 2020, according to Mann, Armistead & Epperson, Ltd., an investment bank and consulting firm. business consultancy based in Richmond, Virginia. imports by value rose nearly 70% in the decade ending in 2020 to $30.7 billion, with China providing more than a third of that amount, the company said.

This has left many furniture importers vulnerable to supply chain disruptions such as ship backing out of U.S. ports and sharp increases in container shipping prices since 2020.

Countryside Amish Furniture in Arthur, Ill., saw delivery times for its orders drop from three months to 10 months, hurting sales, owner Melvin Stutzman said. Everything is locally sourced, he said. But the 100 small, family-run shops in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania that supply the store have hiked prices by about 40% amid shortages of everything from stains to drawer slides.

The family’s carpenters, who only make items to order rather than stockpile, are struggling to keep up with demand, Mr. Stutzman said.

“It’s not like your standard Amazon,

“I’ll just type in the order, it came,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a desk or a dining table,” Stutzman said, supply chain issues are “pretty much pervasive.”

Write to Lydia O’Neal at [email protected]

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