Amid ever-evolving supply chain disruptions, schools around the country are scrambling to stay afloat. Many necessities—including food, paper, and electronics—have become increasingly scarce, especially in rural and low-income areas.
Last academic year, a staggering 92% of school food authorities reported supply chain-related challenges. Their top concerns? Missing or unavailable products, worker shortages, and rising costs. As suppliers and shippers contend with new setbacks, companies in the education sector must adopt stronger, more dynamic strategies to thrive.
A growing crisis in America’s schools
These problems didn’t materialize overnight. Longstanding bottlenecks, delays, and shortages came to a head during the pandemic, straining countless industries worldwide. With supply chain disruptions on the rise, schools now face a number of pressing concerns:
- Meals and nutrition
School nutrition might be the K-12 industry’s most pressing supply chain problem. Stock has become increasingly difficult to predict: Last school year, a kitchen that serves elementary schools in Michigan ordered 400 cases of food, only to receive 35. Just a few days later, it received 700 cases at once. These uncertainties have upended nutrition planning programs across the country: Some lunch administrators are making last-minute menu adjustments and ingredient swaps, while others have been forced to order pizza and fast food from local restaurants.
During the pandemic, demand for laptops, tablets, and other electronics exploded. Though most classrooms are no longer remote, demand remains high—a key driver of continued shortages and rising costs. On a broader scale, global chip shortages—exacerbated by pandemic-related factory shutdowns and last year’s Suez Canal blockage—have only further strained supply.
After classrooms went remote, some paper mills shut down. Others began prioritizing a cheaper, more in-demand alternative: corrugated paper. With the return of in-person learning came a resurgence in demand for standard paper—pressure that continues to overwhelm the nation’s paper mills, many of which are experiencing labor and raw ingredient shortages.
How companies can tackle school-related supply chain disruptions
Taking on these obstacles may seem daunting. With the right tools and strategies, however, logistics teams can mitigate key risks, boost efficiency, and build resilient supply chains. Tactics include:
- Diversifying supplier networks
Supplier diversification is a crucial risk management strategy. By cultivating reliable partnerships with suppliers in different regions, companies can minimize delays and maintain predictable inventory levels.
- Implementing leading technology
The right technology can minimize supply chain disruptions by providing key insights into stock, pricing, and school demand. Transportation management systems help companies gain the real-time data and visibility they need to react decisively to unanticipated obstacles.
- Optimizing inventory management
By thoroughly analyzing data and demand, companies can refine their approach to inventory management. With the right strategy, companies can minimize just-in-time inventory and costly stockpiling.
Strengthening schools through supply chains
Today’s schools are tackling unprecedented challenges. In the face of both new and longstanding supply chain disruptions, companies must embrace smarter solutions—for both themselves and the schools they serve.
Honeybee TMS by CTSI-Global gives companies the data-driven insights they need to navigate these obstacles with confidence. With the right solutions, companies can emerge stronger than ever—and build more resilient supply chains along the way.