(CBS Baltimore) — The supply chain is made up of the many steps that brings a product to a customer. But right now the chain seems to be broken, or at least crimped in places. Store shelves are partly empty, deliveries are delayed, and prices are rising. Bottlenecks at many steps along the way are keeping products out of the hands of consumers. When the supply chain will return to normal is anyone’s guess. And the economy is paying the price.
The supply chain for any given company can start with suppliers of raw materials and other inputs. Once a product is made, it travels along the network from the factory to a warehouse to a store and ultimately to the final customer. Various agents, brokers, vendors, transportation companies, and distribution centers can play key roles along the way in ensuring a product gets made and reaches its final destination.READ MORE: Man Can't Get Heart Transplant Because He's Not Vaccinated Against COVID
Thanks to a variety of problems, exacerbated by the global COVID pandemic, the supply chain isn’t acting as it should. Cargo ships carrying approximately half a million shipping containers filled with goods from various countries in Asia await offloading at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Once they are offloaded, a shortage of truck drivers prevents those containers from moving out of ports in a timely manner. Railroad terminals, where trucks deliver goods for the next leg of the journey, are backed up with containers awaiting further transport, which, in turn, also block inbound trains. Should those goods somehow make it to a warehouse, worker shortages are limiting their timely processing.
And those are just some of the issues.
A global microchip shortage, exacerbated by Texas winter storms that affected domestic production, is slowing the production of cars and various electronic devices. China, where many consumer goods destined for America are produced, is suffering through an ongoing energy crisis that’s curtailing manufacturing. And manufacturers in many other countries with lower rates of vaccination have endured shutdowns and worker shortages brought on by the spread of the Delta variant.READ MORE: Has The Delta Variant Disappeared? Dr. Mallika Marshall Answers Your COVID-19 Questions
All this has happened just as a shift in spending, brought on by COVID, has drastically increased demand for a wide variety of products. The situation is fluid and will likely remain that way through the holiday season and into the new year.
CBS Local has the latest supply chain news from its markets across the country. We are updating this list frequently, so check back often for the latest news on the situation.
An in-depth look at the supply chain crisis:
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A look at how supply chain issues are impacting consumers around the country: