Taking a behind the scenes look at TEI Rock Drills

A behind the scenes look at TEI Rock Drills, which shows how everything is made in Montrose and then shipped worldwide.

Supply chain and staffing shortages were both prominent issues in 2021 that businesses across several industries dealt with.

It remains a national and local trend, with businesses struggling to hire while dealing with delays in transportation and shorted supply.

At the local level, specifically at TEI Rock Drills, those issues impacted deliveries and pricing.

“Everyone is experiencing the same supply shortages that we are,” said Sue Frank, TEI Rock Drills president and CEO. “We have vendors that we work with in Europe that are having the same issues — getting raw materials. It’s everywhere.”

Deliveries went from 16 to 30 weeks for TEI in 2021, Frank said. Logistical issues, such as the arrival of containers, have been prominent.

“It’s been really difficult,” Frank said. “And then of course prices (for shipping) have tripled.”

Frank added current costs of goods are expected to go up at least 7%. There’s been indication some raw materials could go up as much as 20%, she said, but expects 7% to be a much more likely figure.

“Twenty percent would be really hard to swallow,” Frank said.

Price increases for TEI’s attachments and drill heads are a possibility with costs of goods expected to rise, Frank said. But she and her team haven’t made a decision on that yet — they’ve been focused on increasing efficiencies such as time to produce and build, which can cut costs and help keep prices competitive.

At the Fox Theater, supply shortages have forced staff to switch from using round popcorn tubs to square tubs. They also haven’t been able to receive specific sweets that have been ordered.

“There’s been some freight company changes locally that have affected our ability to get our supplies in a timely fashion,” Fox Theater co-owner Misty Hunter said.

Dee Coram, co-owner of The Coffee Trader, said he’s seen the price of green coffee beans go up 120% in the past three months. That’s certainly in line with the past year’s movement in the coffee market — coffee on the Dow Jones Commodity Index has increased 95.18% since January 2020. (The Index tracks the coffee market through futures contracts.)

Coffee prices reached a 10-year high in November 2021, according to a report from the International Coffee Organization.

“Coffee is just not where it should be right now,” Coram said. “Some crop shortages are because of climate issues, but a lot of the other crops are sitting somewhere else. We’re just unable to get our hands on them.”

Coram said he expects pricing to level off, though climate and logistical issues remain. Brazil experienced frost and drought in 2021 and lost some of its coffee crop. Transportation of goods via freight companies continues to see delays.

“What tends to happen is things are still getting docked at transportation warehouses,” Coram said. “That delays products arriving. And that goes hand-in-hand with the rise in coffee prices.”

Warehousing allows Coram and Phuong Nguyen, also co-owner of Coffee Trader, to anticipate changes and make timely adjustments. They have a distribution center in Montrose.

They, like other business owners, continue to reevaluate their own pricing, but are optimistic the exacerbated issues from 2021 could start to mitigate.

“Things are slowly coming back to where they were,” Coram said.

At the moment, the same can’t be said for employment, at least at Coffee Trader. Offering extensive benefits to full-time employees at “competitive wages” hasn’t moved the needle for potential employees.

“Last week, my managers scheduled eight back-to-back interviews,” Coram said. “One person showed up.”

TEI Rock Drills has retained its staff and has made a few hires in the past few months, Frank said. Finding prospective employees, though, remains an obstacle, she added.

At the Fox, new hires have adjusted quickly, though bringing back assistant managers that left in 2020 has been a struggle. “I can get cashiers and other employees, but the management has been and will be a challenge,” Hunter said.

Applicants have been much more likely to show up at the Coffee Trader locations in Grand Junction and Gunnison compared to Montrose, Coram said, though he isn’t sure whether the students at college campuses — Colorado Mesa University (Grand Junction) and Western State University (Gunnison) — play a role.

“We’re not alone in this,” Coram said. “We talk to other business owners who have people show up, fill out an application, do an interview and never see them again.

“But the employees that we have are awesome and work hard,” he added. “There’s still a handful of positions we want to fill, but we’re very lucky to employ the staff that we have.”

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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