Out of Stock

This is the 1st of a 3-part series featuring alumni who have tough jobs. Landing a job you love after graduation isn’t guaranteed. Oftentimes, however, challenging workplaces or jobs produce the greatest amount of growth. Read on to see what we mean. 

By Kesha Rainey, ’16

Courtesy of themirror.com

After weeks of anticipating a new release from our favorite brands, the last thing we want to see before adding to our carts is “out of stock.” Often, the items we anticipate purchasing aren’t the latest trends but the everyday essentials. Cleaning supplies and even some of our favorite foods seem to stay in a constant state of being out of stock. This lack of availability of key items when we need them poses an inconvenience in our everyday lives, especially in the midst of a pandemic.

And as we consider the disruption that Out of Stock items causes for us individually, just imagine the disruption it has caused for the brands that we rely on to keep those items on the shelf.

For a moment, let’s peel back the layer visible to the consumer as empty shelves and look at the layer hidden to the consumer. Perspective of this hidden layer is attributed to my past role as an import analyst for an existing freight forwarder. From the food we consume to the clothes we wear, all those items undergo a unique journey before we ever see them. That journey includes multiple entities working together to produce an item that is eventually placed on the shelf for purchase. For the simplicity of this article we will reference the relationship between these entities as a supply chain. At the beginning of every supply chain is a manufacturing facility, which we will reference as the supplier. The supplier is responsible for gathering all the materials needed to create that item. For clothing, it’s the fabric and for items we may eat or drink it includes the ingredients. A supplier may have multiple facilities where they carrier out different aspects of creation of that product.

You may be wondering now, well how does a supplier know how much to produce or are they constantly producing around the clock without any guidance. Suppliers will receive an order from an importer to manufacture a certain number of items to be delivered to the U.S. Think of importers in terms of your local Target or Neighborhood Walmart. Importers look at how much customers purchased of particular items in the past and will order based on that data.

Once that order is received and the supplier completes production, my role as an import analyst enters into the supply chain.  However, before exploring some of my responsibilities as an import analyst, it is essential to discuss the role of a freight forwarder within the supply chain.  Freight forwarders connect entities working together within a supply chain. They may connect an importer with a trucker to deliver an order or contact government agencies on behalf of the importer. Even though they are not manufacturing a product or placing an order, they play an essential role in supporting existing supply chains.

As an import analyst, being attentive to the details of every order placed by an importer was essential. First, I would receive a copy of the order the importer submitted to the supplier. Then, I would notify the United States government entity, U.S. Customs Border and Protection. This entity is responsible for ensuring the security and safety of items entering into the U.S. Once that notification is accepted, that order becomes a shipment that is loaded on a container vessel or even a plane bound for the United States. Depending on the country the shipment is being exported from, will determine how long it takes for the shipment to arrive into the States. Before any shipment can be received into the U.S., the details of the entire order must be submitted electronically to U.S. Customs Border and Protection and then approved. Once that approval is granted, the shipment is received into the States and I locate a carrier ( ie.trucker) to delivery the contents of the shipment to the importer. It is definitely a meticulous job, but “somebody’s gotta do it.” At times vessels were delayed due to weather conditions, some orders were damaged before arriving on the vessel, or shipments never reached the states. Working in this role was frustrating from time to time because there were always elements beyond my control that interfered with the tasks I needed to complete.

However, this role taught me, it isn’t the obstacle that matters it is how we choose to respond that makes the difference. So be sure to keep in mind as you encounter obstacles in your academic, professional, or even personal realm of life don’t be discouraged by the details that frustrate you. Allow the details to become learning opportunities to develop skillsets that will be useful in the next chapter of life. It is in those roles and experiences in life that frustrate and challenge us, where we experience the most growth.

Hopefully, the next time you see “out of stock” you think of that hidden layer, but also an opportunity to explore a new brand or create innovative alternatives.

Kesha Rainey is a 2016 graduate of CofC. She is the owner of Simply Charmed Greek and works for Raytheon Technologies within the Supply Chain Leadership Development Program. Follow her on Instagram: @Simplycharmedgreek

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