What would you do if the sole source for your most critical component of your only product suddenly decided to shut down? Look for a tall building? Figure how much an early retirement would cost in Guatemala? Decide that flipping burgers was a decent career option?
If you’re on California’s central coast you simply say "I think things will somehow work out." And probably add a "dude" and a "narly" in there somewhere. That attitude is one of the reasons I live out here, where life is for living and not for getting uptight… even as you’re trying to live in one of the most expensive parts of the country. And you can’t beat the local pinot noir.
At the end of 2005 Clark Foam, the largest supplier of polyurethane foam surfboard blanks for over 44 years, suddenly shut down. This created a supply chain emergency for the large number of small shops shaping and manufacturing completed surfboards. When Clark Foam shut down,
Shane Stoneman, a shaper in Cayucos, took a relatively laidback approach, predicting distribution logistics for new companies supplying foam would work out and surfboard makers would be able to find a regular supply of foam.
It did, as it always will.
Gardena, Calif.-based US Blanks was formed in the aftermath of Clark’s closure by two former Clark Foam employees, Kim Thress and Jeff Holtby. They started production of foam boards in September 2006.
Mr. Stoneman’s small shop hung in there during the dry spell and is now making a run of it.
“Things are a lot better,” said Stoneman, who is using surfboard blanks primarily from a new American company, US Blanks. Stoneman uses this company, rather than overseas foam suppliers, because of its high quality. “The stuff I’m getting is fantastic,” he said. “The company has a lot of the same production staff as Clark Foam.…I already know all of those people, and they’re supplying us with great foam consistently,” Stoneman said. With the steady supply of high-quality foam, Stoneman has been able to increase his production by about 40 percent over last year, he said.
As a final note to this story, keep in mind that Mr. Stoneman has a tiny shop basically operating out of a converted garage. Yet he has more wisdom and courage than most Fortune 500 CEO’s. He understands true supply chain costs, the cost of quality, and therefore the benefits of having a supplier nearby. He obviously watches his pennies so he can survive the downturns and be around to capitalize on the upturns. And he gets to play with his product every day, right outside his front door.