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Sunday, February 10, 2013

An Insider’s Perspective on Ammo Shortages

ammo productionI work directly on the manufacturing floor for a/the major producer of 22 Short, 22 LR, 22 WMR, .22 WRF and .17 HMR. The company is also a major player in CF ammo, but that isn’t my department. A good sleuth will be able to identify the company from the platforms I listed.

Anyway, management had seen an interesting trend of new firearm registration without increased demand for the corresponding ammo. We had HUGE surpluses in warehouses waiting to be ordered throughout 2011, and the first part of 2012.

There was an underlying fear among employees that a major layoff would occur, as that happened in 2007-2008 for similar reasons. (We also produce power loads for construction applications, and when housing bottomed, that sector did, too). It was horrible, short runs, level loading limiting our production to so much per day. People being sent to CF for a shift to help inspect the ammo (believe it or not, many of the ammo is inspected individually by hand. millions and millions of rounds, all by hand) and a lot of broom handling in that period to keep people busy.

In mid-2011: Since CF ammo demand remained in steady and even increasing demand; they shut down a shift and transferred a large portion of employees out of the RF group to CF, froze all hiring, and avoided lay-offs. Nobody was ordering rimfire anything.

Then we hit April 2012. The warehouse emptied almost over night and production demands were increased to 2009 levels. We were treading water for most of the spring/summer while they hired up, trained and restarted the 4th shift. We had a goal of approx 4 million LR rounds, and 1.5-2 million WMR/HMR per day. By the time the hiring and the additional shift had warmed up to productive levels, we found ourselves 50-60 million rounds in the hole across all groups for the year. We are still just breaking just slightly above even for a production goal. That means there is a 50ish million round deficit that will take a very long time to make up.

This is also why you are seeing a huge amount of loose pack “bulk” cartons being introduced for WMR where it hadn’t been previously available. The packaging turn around for those are, as you can imagine, incredibly faster than individual rounds in 50 ct plastic trays and boxes, those being individually packed and labeled. It takes no time at all to open a cardboard box, and glue it shut. (Don’t worry about the quality, just because it is faster doesn’t mean it isn’t with as much care.) But, that means we can easily outrun our loading capacity, which can’t be sped up any faster. When something goes out of spec, we shut it down until its right. No shortcuts.

I thought you guys would find it interesting to see an insider perspective of this ammo shortage, and a little of the situation on our end. We, on the floor, are working our asses off to turn this thing around.