Foam shortage causing shipping delays nationwide, RIT professor weighs in

Economy

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Foam, the fluffy ‘bits and pieces’ used for shipping items is in the midst of a major national shortage. That hold-up is causing things like furniture to get delivered late.

Foam is in short supply because five major plants in the South were walloped by winter storm Uri in February. Those factories make the chemical components for the foam and are running behind, still recovering from the weather event. 

Foam is a sub-component for consumer goods. If we’re out, factories can’t ship. In February, gas pipelines shut down, causing a ripple effect in places like Texas. Some foam has chemicals that are petrol-driven.

Steven Carnovale a Supply Chain Management Professor with the Rochester Institute of Technology, says the factories were not prepared for this winter storm and did not have enough back stock. He says during COVID and even after, with products and shipping it’s been like a ‘merry-go-round’

“That’s the only thing I can say, is that there’s a certain degree of predictability generally speaking, which is: products are going to have product shortages. Wait it out, and while that product will come back in stock, another’s going to go out of stock. So there’s that. The second thing is, this in particular, it’s all driven at some level by how consumers respond to it. So, if the shortage of this one product causes consumers to go out and stockpile, that’s going to have negative effects down the road to that same product. It’s the same thing that happened with the toilet paper,” says Carnovale.

Whether it’s toilet paper, lumber, or foam, Carnovale says stay calm, don’t panic…products will come back in stock.

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