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What do supply chain issues mean for the caster and wheel industry going forward?

Since the pandemic’s start in late 2019/early 2020, the world could not comprehend a time in the modern era when we could not obtain the products we wanted. Most notably, the semiconductor market took a massive hit, putting automotive and electronic production to a screeching halt. Although semiconductors got a majority of the media attention, there were delays in virtually all overseas exports to North America. What does that mean for the Caster industry going forward?

A typical caster is made of metal, usually steel or aluminum. China is the world leader in steel exportation and a leading exporter of electrical components and automotive parts (drawn from United Nations COMTRADE, a statistical database accessible here). As attractive as this may seem, procuring anything overseas during the pandemic can be tumultuous.

Covid-19 regulations are at every stop on the logistical chain and can become costly when dealing with overseas suppliers. Purchasing domestic goods will always be cheaper with fewer hoops to jump through. US states do not have nearly the regulations when it comes to shipping goods from one location to another. In fact, the US is the fifth-ranked steel exporter globally and can manufacture steel for domestic uses at a high rate.

Steel has been the material of choice for industrial applications for decades. However, manufacturers, including Caster Concepts, offer aluminum applications as well. Australia is the world export leader in aluminum/bauxite (aluminum in a raw form) and has close relations with the US politically and economically. Still, they are in the same position as China in terms of geography and Covid regulations — some of the strictest in the world today. If you are not vaccinated, you cannot enter the country. Additionally, these regulations take time to execute correctly, time that you aren’t always willing to spare.

Having to ship across the Pacific will always be time consuming, as it’s the largest body of water in the world. Most freighters can make the trek across the Pacific in about two weeks. However, hauling goods overseas risks intertwining political tensions with business functions. And freight costs will inevitably be higher than trucking costs solely because of politics and taxes. In contrast, shipping domestically is simply deciding who you want to ship with.

At Caster Concepts, we see the issues of overseas reliance. That’s why we manufacture all our casters and wheels in house. Quality and faster lead times are of the utmost importance to us.