But some hiccups, like factory shutdowns, scarce raw materials, and freight delays, are entirely out of retailers’ control. The shipping crisis has threatened to disrupt the transportation of wood pulp — the raw material for products like toilet paper — which is shipped out from South America. And for products like lumber, which is currently experiencing levels of demand not seen in a decade, suppliers can’t suddenly ramp up production overnight. One sawmill owner told Vox’s Emily Stewart that a new mill takes two years to build and costs $100 million, without any guarantee of raw materials. Trees, after all, take years to grow, and in some parts of the US, there’s limited sawmill capacity to turn timber into lumber.

One of the greatest concerns for automakers, medical device manufacturers, and consumer tech companies is the semiconductor chip shortage, which likely won’t be resolved for another year or two. These chips are responsible for powering a slew of consumer goods — home appliances, tech gadgets, automotive vehicles — that have been subject to supply chain slowdowns due to the sheer number of parts required to assemble a finished product. The chip shortage is affecting major American companies like General Motors, Microsoft, Apple, Tesla, Qualcomm, and Hewlett-Packard. This crisis is on the White House’s radar; the federal government plans to invest in chip manufacturing in the US, but the process could take years.

“Making a single chip takes an incredibly long time,” reported Recode’s Rebecca Heilweil. “At the same time, building more chip manufacturing plants, sometimes called fabs, requires years of engineering and construction and billions of dollars.”

A plant takes roughly two and a half years to build, according to Patrick Penfield, a supply chain management professor at Syracuse University. “We’ve got Intel, we’ve got a couple of smaller manufacturers, but it’s gonna take time — and I think there needs to be more of an investment,” he told Recode.

The pandemic has forced major companies and entire industries to reassess the risks of an interconnected supply chain. For years, this system has consistently boosted profit margins, and its vulnerability to unexpected events, like a pandemic or climate change, was not put into question. Still, most industries hesitate to make vast changes to their manufacturing process, which would be a costly and time-intensive endeavor. For now, consumers have no choice but to start getting used to these delays. It is, after all, the fault of the business model that habituated Americans to this “I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it” consumerist mentality. Or maybe, it’s time to start buying locally and less.

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