Thousands of loyal fans are excited for the new Barbie movie premiering this July 21, featuring the pink-loving character who was an iconic figure in so many childhoods. But who could’ve guessed that Barbie’s love of pink could somehow be tied to a global pink paint shortage? As the media investigates and the situation receives more mainstream attention, many have begun to wonder: did the Barbie movie actually make the world run out of pink?
In this blog, we’ll look at the supply chain explanation for the current global paint shortages. We’ll also look at how to plan for shortages and why low-tier suppliers play an important role in your supply chain.
Event Background: The Global Paint Shortage
The truth is, the paint shortage can’t entirely be blamed on the Barbie movie, as issues including the COVID-19 pandemic and storms in Texas began disrupting the supply chain long before 2023.
It all started with Rosco Laboratories, one of the biggest building material manufacturers in the American south, and the producer of the pink paint for the Barbie movie. Rosco’s supply chain issues began with the pandemic when manufacturing slowdowns and shipment delays caused a paint shortage.
To make matters worse, in February of 2021, Texas faced a Deep Freeze, where huge ice storms by the Gulf Coast damaged important raw materials necessary for Rosco’s paint manufacturing, including epoxy resins and solvents like acetone.
The Importance of the Polymer Shortage
A vital ingredient in epoxy resins are polymers, which have been facing their own shortage since the pandemic. Petrochemical producers cut production when the pandemic began, but the economy bounced back unexpectedly fast, and consumer demand for polymer-based products such as fabrics, electrical appliances, and plastic bags shot up. Polymer suppliers did not have the resources to satisfy demand, and the price of epoxy resins rose 170% from before the pandemic to 2021.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana in August of 2020 with Hurricane Zeta coming a month later. The affected areas were hotspots for polymer production, and the damaged materials delayed production and furthered the polymer shortage. The Texas Deep Freeze soon after served only to worsen the pre-existing supply issue. These interruptions may have occurred years ago, but their effects have continued to this day.
Where Does the Barbie Movie Fit In?
The Barbie movie’s contribution to the paint shortage came much more recently. The movie’s sets are covered with a bright pink hue that is integral to the aesthetic of the movie. Rosco, already low on supplies, sold the Barbie movie virtually everything they had in stock and caused a worldwide shortage of Rosco’s fluorescent pink paint shortage.
As of June 2023, the paint shortage is still in effect. Individual artists are still able to purchase the ‘Barbie pink’ paint from department stores such as Home Depot, but companies and moviemakers may not be able to obtain the vast amounts of paint necessary for their projects.
While pink paint is in shortest supply because of the Barbie movie, paint in general is still facing a shortage. Representatives from Sherwin Williams, a paint manufacturing company, have stated that shortages in paint as well as other homebuilding sectors have caused cooling in the housing market.
How Can Companies Plan Against Shortages?
Many companies buy up large amounts of materials before it becomes scarce in the face of shortages. This is known as stockpiling and is how Rosco was able to produce more paint than other manufacturers, even after the paint shortage began.
However, stockpiling is not a guarantee of success, as Rosco was not immune to shortages despite its increased material reserves. The Deep Freeze damaged a lot of the paint they had amassed, as well as the equipment necessary to replenish their reserve. As a movie industry supplier, Rosco was low on the priority list for paint replenishment compared to department stores such as Lowe’s, which received replacement supplies far earlier. And, even when Rosco finally received some components like resin, it still had to deal with other shortages caused by the pandemic, such as pigment shortages.
Rosco’s outcome provides a great example of why stockpiling is not the ultimate answer to avoiding risk. The paint shortage wasn’t caused by paint, but by suppliers of polymers, resins, and other low-tier supplies that are needed to manufacture paint. Companies that want resilient supply chains must monitor their suppliers’ suppliers that are critical to continuing production multiple tiers deep—and remember the importance of low-tier raw material suppliers.
Why Low-Tier Suppliers are Important to Navigating Shortages
The polymer and paint shortages of the past few years highlight the importance of monitoring and communicating with low-tier suppliers. Polymers are tier-two materials often used to produce low-cost resources such as adhesives and resins. Because these materials are low-cost and hidden in the supply chain, many industries do not have visibility into their polymer suppliers, and do not monitor these suppliers.
But these suppliers are essential to production. As AP news reported, the polymer shortage impacted production of “the plastic pellets that go into a vast universe of products ranging from cereal bags to medical devices, automotive interiors to bicycle helmets”, referring to polymer as “one of the humblest yet most vital links in the global manufacturing supply chain”.
Disruptions in the polymer supply chain impeded the production of thousands of products from a multitude of industries—including paint. This just goes to show that low-cost items can often have the highest impacts on supply chains if they go unmonitored and unmapped.
Find information on other important low-tier commodities in our blog: 4 crucial commodities to watch in 2023.
Resilinc Solutions: Multi-Tier Mapping
Resilinc’s Multi-Tier Mapping helps companies identify and track low-tier suppliers. With over 12 years of supplier-validated data in our database, there’s a good chance we have already mapped many of your suppliers’ suppliers. If events such as natural disasters or labor strikes disrupt production for your suppliers, Resilinc can both alert you and help you navigate the supply chain disruption effectively and efficiently.
Learning more about how Resilinc’s Multi-Tier Mapping solution can help your company gain visibility into sub-tier suppliers and navigate potential shortages.