As many of you have already noticed, our pricing has changed and placing an order for a Carli product rarely finds the SKU on the shelf, ready to ship. This “pandemic” has brought along with it unprecedented demand and thus, ordering coupled with raw material scarcity and subsequent commodity price hikes.
March 2020 was strange to say the least. We remember our meeting in which we discussed the climate in which we were operating; it would not be long before supply or demand shut off as municipalities announced their impending forced closures. We were fortunate to see our way through operating in the “Essential Business” sector. Regardless, our vendors and distributors would need to weather the storm with us or continuing operations would be fruitless.
Two weeks of oddly quiet operations followed during which we could count on half our staff punching in while receiving emails from vendor after vendor announcing their open-ended closure. Through it all, we continued to manufacture and invoice what we could. So long as product was going out and people were taking it, we were working. This trend continued coupled with dwindling sales through the month; it felt like the walls were closing in.
April, orders started rolling back in. We would go so far as to call the month normal (as in, it met our pre-pandemic projections); May doubled April. This unprecedented increase in demand was met with shortages as the industry saw less people willing to work compounded by import embargos and massive demand driving the cost for the finite supply of domestic raw materials. The demand continues as do the supply chain issues and employee shortages.
Raw material price hikes and our infrastructure expansion to handle the post-pandemic demand have forced us to raise our prices. Many Carli parts had not seen an increase in price since their release in the mid-2000’s (coil springs, ball joints, control arms, etc.) Other parts were recently redesigned and pricing just revisited (Ford Radius Arms, Fox and King Shocks, etc.) – these parts saw no price increase. On average, parts saw around 10%, some up to 15%.
All the above in mind, our 2020 production ramped with the orders despite the hardship. Not quite as much as we’d like but we shipped 50% more in 2020 than 2019 (which was a record year) despite the shortages and shut downs. Again, 50% growth through the pandemic. 2021 is on track for the same!
We know it does not feel like it. As an End User that paid “X” amount for their parts months ago and has been pushed off time after time with a new lead time every time they check in, Carli is starting to feel like a shade-tree operation. Our purpose with this letter is to provide perspective – In the last 12 months, we have done the following to help mitigate the effect of these challenges:
- Hired as many people as we can find and retain in all departments (assembly, freight, driving, office, clerical, sales, machine, welding). Literal open-door hiring policy to all qualified candidates. If you are able bodied and qualified, we’ll put you to work!
- Purchased several CNC machines to expand machine shop operations.
- Contracted several outside vendors to assist in manufacturing/machining parts.
- Purchased a second building to house our ever-growing welding department.
- Internal infrastructure investments (Personnel, Hardware, ERP/MRP Software).
- Evaluation and refinement of production methods via part redesign, superior manufacturing techniques, and discontinuation of low-volume products.
- Minimizing new product development to focus on the delivery of the product already on backlog.
- Restructured distribution channels to ensure efficiency by delivering large stocking orders to Carli-Specific wholesalers better equipped to quickly ship individual orders to End Users and Small Shops.
Yes, we are still backordered BUT there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Ordering from a stocking retailer will net you the shortest lead time but, for some parts, there is still an extended lead time (others are in stock!). We are pumping out more parts than we ever have and are now seeing a bottleneck in our assembly department rather than our production department; regardless, our retailers are seeing more product than they ever have!
If you have a question on the specific lead time for your order, please contact your retailer – they’ll shoot us over their PO number on which it was ordered and we’ll be happy to look into it for you! We will have a FAR better idea today than we did a few months ago.
Thank you all for your support and patience; it’s been invaluable in these unprecedented times!
Onward and upward,
The Carli Suspension Team