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Key adjustments to make to overcome current supply chain issues

June 15, 2022 -  By
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Troy Oster, senior category manager at SiteOne Landscape Supply, is nearing the 20-year mark in his career. He looks back at the last 18-plus months as some of the most challenging, yet rewarding, of his career.

“Every day is different; every new day is a new challenge,” he says. “I love hopefully being able to solve some of those challenges to help our customers get work and get that work done.”

Oster says supply chain challenges in the irrigation industry have been quite the curveball for him and his customers. He cites a general shortage of components, longer delivery times, increased freight costs and high demand as the perfect storm that has created this supply chain drama.

But he stresses that this is not an industry that makes excuses, it is an industry that gets it done.

“The people are the bedrock of the industry; these people have a get-it-done attitude,” Oster says. “Everyone is dealing with these challenges. Look at the last few years, there have been a number of challenges. But business has been good. That speaks to (the industry) figuring it out and getting it done — the suppliers, the manufacturers, the installers, everyone.”

Landscape Management spoke with Oster, Justin White of K&D Landscape in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Andrew Moberly at Yellowstone Landscape in Nashville about what their current supply chain challenges are and what they’re doing to overcome the obstacles.

Products in need

Justin White

Justin White

K&D Landscape is a full-service company that operates in the Bay area of California. Justin White, CEO, says there are a number of products that used to be readily available that now are challenging to obtain. He lists plastics, backflows, stone, hardscaping materials, small equipment and vehicles as all having some form of challenges associated with obtaining them.

“We’re looking into the future a lot more than we used to when it comes to material procurement,” White says. “If we don’t, we either find ourselves changing the product we spec’d on the fly — that doesn’t go over well with the client — or we change the schedule. And that also doesn’t go well with the client.”

Andrew Moberly, irrigation manager at Yellowstone, says backflows and MP rotators are on his shortlist of products that have been harder to get in recent months.

Unexpected delays in the supply chain could force companies to reschedule jobs. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

Unexpected delays in the supply chain could force companies to reschedule jobs. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

“There are a lot of issues with getting the necessary supplies,” Moberly says. “The day-to-day products can run out. Our local distributors are always looking out for us. They might say, ‘X product is scarce, you need to look at this alternative.’ You never want to be surprised. We use SiteOne, and they take the surprise out.”

Lessons learned

White says K&D Landscape has made a commitment to staying on top of the supply chain drama by creating a weekly meeting they call “three-month lookouts.”

“Once a week we look and see what products we’ll need,” White says. “And we have one person, our chief operations officer, making sure everyone is doing these look-aheads … because it’s easy to let them fade off the schedule after a few weeks.”

White adds another adjustment they’ve made is carrying a larger supply of products. He notes that K&D also works with SiteOne, which gives them more control of their inventory.

Moberly says he’s learned that he needs to be more flexible when it comes to trying different brands.

Troy Oster

Troy Oster

“I know myself, and I know I get stuck in my ways,” he says. “I only use X product. Well, there are a ton of great products, not just two. I’ve learned to try them.”

Oster says the main lesson he’s learned is how important it is to keep communication lines open with everyone involved in the process.

“Communicate that this is real,” Oster says. “The time is going to take longer, and the prices have gone up. Try to get everyone to grasp this. Open the dialogue that there are challenges and a need to be flexible with alternative products.”

Looking ahead

How much longer will these supply chain challenges be the norm? Opinions differ.

Troy Oster, senior category manager at SiteOne Landscape Supply, says communicating with everyone involved on a project is as important as ever with supply chain challenges. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

Troy Oster, senior category manager at SiteOne Landscape Supply, says communicating with everyone involved on a project is as important as ever with supply chain challenges. (Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply)

“I think the general sentiment is that there is some optimism,” Oster says. “We are by no means out of the woods, but we see some improvements upcoming.”

Moberly was not optimistic.

“My gut says it’s not getting better any time soon,” he says.

White, meanwhile, doesn’t see it in black and white, but in gray.

“I expect us to see an increase in supply in the next 12 to 18 months,” White says. “I see manufacturing ramping up. Barring any COVID-related shutdowns, I think in quarter two or quarter three of 2023, we’re done. What I don’t see? I don’t see the prices stalling or coming down for a few years.”

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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