Headstone and monument companies feeling effects of global supply chain issues

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 6:16 PM CST
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) -Since the onset of the pandemic, there’s been shortages of everything. From electronics like video game consoles to computer chips for cars, lumber, and bricks for homes, and comfort foods like curly fries and avocados.

Now supply shortages are causing grave delays for grieving families and local headstone and monument suppliers are feeling the effects of the global supply chain shortage.

Because headstones are customized there’s always been a manufacturing and processing time delay between laying a loved one to rest, and how long it takes for the headstone or grave marker to be placed on the final resting place.

Companies like Watson Signs & Monuments are having a difficult time getting their hands on the granite and other material needed to make gravestones. Management from the company says the problem is not just pandemic related but stems from several different issues ranging from tariffs on goods from overseas, skilled labor shortages, and common logistic problems.

“It’s all issues that compile together to make one big problem,” said Tony Watson, Watson Signs, and Monuments owner and monument artist. “Our suppliers in, whether it’s in Georgia or in Minnesota or Dakota, they’re having a hard time getting enough people to handle the increase in orders that have happened.”

Watson says there’s an increase in orders that are domestic because of tariffs and slowdowns from overseas.

“Quite a bit of rock comes from overseas,” said Watson. “Generally most of your colors come from overseas. If you think about a traditional Blackstone that most people are used to seeing, those traditional Blackstones come from China.”

Not only are supplies in shortage, but labor is hard to find, according to Watson.

“I think we’re seeing a change in the guard. We’re seeing a lot of the old guard getting ready to retire and not many people are trying to get into the industry just cause you’re not seeing a lot of people get into trades,” said Watson.

Tanner Lewis owns Lewis Transcontinental, a trucking service that specializes in transporting heavy loads like granite and steel. He says trucking and monument companies are working closely to plan routes, but there’s always been logistics issues.

“Generally, as we see in the monument business, these companies are probably used to being six weeks out until they process the order to the delivery times,” said Lewis.

Lewis says trucking companies are also being hit with the same supply chain shortages other companies are dealing with.

“When trucks go down our biggest issue is trying to get the parts. That has become a monumental task within itself,” said Lewis. “Even from small things like a computer chip for a fuel module could be on national backorder that gets a truck down for over a month. "

Lewis says driver retention is also an issue with some of the other major carriers.

“I know a lot of guys that lost their jobs because of those COVID mandates on drivers,” said Lewis. “As we see things happening around the country and even further to our Northern friends, I hope this doesn’t carry on cause it will create a parallel within our industry as far as backlogs and things like that.”

Lewis and Watson say competitors are even ordering shipments together all with the common goal of making families happy.

“Companies are trying to consolidate the smaller amounts of loads because they can’t fulfill their much bigger truck size loads as they used to be. So what we have to do in the interim is create these routes to the final destination to drop off smaller loads,” said Lewis.

“We all tend to work together to try and help every family as best as we can because the truth of the matter is while we’re stone cutters and we sell headstones we’re storytellers and we’re here to help grieving families,” said Watson.

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