Supply chain issues causes city to seek parts from China

Published 8:00 am Thursday, November 30, 2023

In order to secure much-needed parts for electric utility services, the City of LaGrange is taking an alternate route during ongoing supply chain issues.

The city has been facing supply chain issues in acquiring parts needed for utility expansion and repairs. Specifically, the city has been unable to purchase electrical terminating elbows and inserts.

Utilities Director Patrick Bowie explained that one of the city’s vendors recently shocked them with the news that the terminating elbows and inserts used to connect underground cables to transformers could be a year or two years out of stock.

“We’ve been getting them in stock just delivered practically overnight and all of a sudden it’s a year or two out because of labor shortages out west where they make these,” Bowie said. “We’ll probably use 500 of these in the next six to 12 months. So we’ve got to keep them coming.”

Bowie said they immediately began looking around and found a manufacturer in China that could manufacture the parts to the same specifications that the city needs. In order to get the parts here the city needs to engage the services of a freight forwarder, essentially someone who handles the logistics of international shipping and customs.

“They classify your materials, get them through customs and make sure all the taxes are paid. They’re just good at getting things efficiently through US Customs,” Bowie said.

Even with paying the customs broker and other required charges, the parts from China will still be less expensive than what the city currently uses.

“At the end of the day, after all the charges are paid, it’s still going to be cheaper than what we were buying here in the US which is kind of a shame, but that’s kind of where we are at this point,” Bowie said.

“Our goal right now is to buy an emergency supply, stick them in the back where we’d rather use the American ones first, and then if we get short we would use these,” Bowie said. “We bought 100 of them to start with to put in the back of the warehouse and have in an emergency. Quality wise we’re going to have to do some testing and just make sure. They look great. They look the same as what we’ve been using.”

Staff recommends approval of an agreement with customs broker John S. James Co. in Savannah, Georgia to facilitate the import of the parts.

The council unanimously approved the recommendation.