The past two weeks have proved to be topsy-turvy to say the least. From RV events being canceled or postponed, like CampCalNOW’s Spring Summit, or shifting over to telecommuting as the RV Industry Association intends to do.
At the heart of it all is growing concern over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The hope is that by causing brief delays, the transmission of the virus will be deterred before major outbreaks lead to more deaths.
Fortunately, action plans for outbreaks across China are beginning to show positive results. Sources have reported that supply orders made before Chinese New Year are beginning to arrive at ports. While this could mean a two-month delay or so for some companies, business is likely to pick up.
Bob Brammer, president of Stromberg Carlson, happily reported that one such shipment to his company is estimated to arrive April 9.
“I had my reputation on the line on that one and I made that factory know it,” said Brammer, laughing. “So, they jumped through hoops, and I’m blessing them right now.”
Economists predict that China should return to full operation by the end of April.
“What we’ve heard is that your mid-size and small factories are finding ways to get product moving,” Brammer explained. “My second main factory has not shipped yet, but I know it’s all scheduled out and they've given us dates. So, they’re not late because again, they were the one of the factories that did ship everything on time before the Chinese New Year.”
The industry he hasn’t experienced anything quite like this before, though, he said.
The more recent steel and aluminum tariffs delivered “a little jolt” for a while. Same goes for the “shock” brought on by steel prices about six or seven years ago, Brammer said. But he mentioned that business bounced back.
What concerns him most nowadays is finding employees in Michigan.
“Labor is the biggest problem anybody has in our industry,” Brammer said. “So, we can have a back order here and there, but our workforce has been strong enough for us.”
It’s a sentiment shared across the industry as manufacturers look for future employees.
“We’re fine,” Brammer reiterates. “But I fear about that all the time.”