ST. LOUIS – “The stresses that were put on the supply chain were extreme. It definitely was a giant stress test,” said Logan Cooper, senior regional traffic manager at OEC Group’s St. Louis bureau.

Logistical nightmares Cooper and his colleagues navigated that don’t yet feel like distant dreams.

“Containers coming into the West Coast. Trying to get them on the rail was a huge challenge. We had containers that sat for six months in some cases,” Cooper said.

Cooper says the experience helped them better understand what worked, what didn’t, and what needed to change. A tall order, even for one of the leading cargo logistics providers from Asia to North America.

“One of the big things for us is what we call transloads. A container that’s coming to the Midwest, instead of using rail to get to the Midwest, which is going to be one of those choke points, we will transload it,” he said. “We will unload the cargo container, put it in a 53-foot dry van, and we’ll truck it into the Midwest.”

Shipping rates have fallen from historic highs, creating what Cooper says are more manageable pre-pandemic supply chain costs.

“Obviously, the more we can control costs, the more our customers control costs, the more the consumers are going to save at the end,” he said.

Cooper believes keeping the supply chain moving is the best way to keep those costs from being passed down to consumers.

“When things get stuck in certain positions, someone’s paying for that. Typically, it’s not absorbed, it’s passed down through the ranks. The end consumer is going to feel that,” he said. “The more we can circumvent and prevent these things, the better off for the consumer it’s going to be.”

He acknowledges the more stable post-pandemic supply chain is still vulnerable to volatility.

“In my opinion, it’s kind of like a sleeping giant right now. There’s one little thing, whether it’s a union strike or a bankruptcy issue. When these things go bad, they go bad quickly, and it gets very costly.”

Cooper is hopeful the lessons learned over the last several years have supply chains all over the world better prepared to deliver without delay.