What Nutella Can Teach Us About the Capacity Crisis

shortageShortage. The very word can cause panic. When a storm is coming, just the idea that we might not be able to get bread, eggs, and toilet paper can clear the shelves and incite retailers to mark up prices.

It’s a basic principle of economics: supply and demand: the amount of an available commodity and the amount of desire for said commodity factor into the item’s price.

In the logistics industry, the capacity crisis has been ongoing for years.  But in my three decades as a 3PL broker, I’ve never seen anything like this.

Naturally, the cost of moving freight ebbs and flows according to various factors. But when it comes to capacity shortages – this one’s a doozy. Transport lanes are going for twice and even three times their standard costs, and the industry doesn’t see a way out yet.

We’re not the only industry facing shortages – consider these everyday items we can’t imagine living without. Some reports predict a chocolate shortage by the year 2050, or a coffee shortage even sooner. Can you even imagine a coffee shortage? I fear the Caffeine Games would be far more brutal than the Hunger Games!

Panic is definitely one way to respond to a crisis, but might I suggest an alternate perspective? It’s an old adage you’ve certainly heard before, with a twist. Scarcity, says the Harvard Business Review, not necessity, is the true mother of invention. Ask any chef you know – if you need an ingredient that isn’t on hand, you don’t trash the whole recipe – you use a replacement.

shortageThe creators of beloved chocolate spread, Nutella, did just that. Nutella was created in World War II Italy, when Pietro Ferrero was having a hard time getting his hands on chocolate, one of many products rationed for the war. Using hazelnuts, a few shelf-stable ingredients, and just a bit of the rationed cocoa, he created a sweet chocolate treat that satiated everyone’s cravings.

But the story doesn’t end there. Despite Nutella being created as a solution to one shortage, it made the news again over half a century later – Nutella fans panicked at rumors of a Nutella shortage due to dwindling hazelnut crops. Not to worry, Nutella had a solution.

For now, I encourage the best logistics minds to think outside the shipping container. Rather than panicking about capacity in trucking, let’s come together. You never know what brilliant idea is right on the other side of a tight spot.

Fuel for Thought,