How the Just in Time System Hurts Everyone in an Emergency

just in time system

Looks like a lot, now divide by several thousand

In an emergency how much can you depend on the grocery stores?  For all of who worked as a stock boy in a grocery store the world has changed. Twenty or even ten years ago, we stored tons of merchandise in the back room and restocked throughout the day.  Today the back room is empty.  This is the result of the just in time inventory system.

When everything is perfect the just in time system is great, it saves time and money.  But let one glitch develop and it will soon collapse.  The just in time system in predicated upon the idea that you keep track of a minimum amount of stock on a computerized inventory system and replace it as needed.  The computer takes information from the registers each day based on how many of an item is sold and orders just enough so  as not to run out.  The goal is that as a customer is buying the last item off the shelf, a stocker is coming in with a new item to replace it.

Now most of the time the just in time system this works well.  But what happens when the weatherman predicts a heavy snowstorm.  Everyone runs to the store.  Suppose you need a gas can, so you can run your generator.  The store probably only stocks 6 – 12 cans.  These will disappear rapidly and then they have to wait for the trucks to bring a new shipment.  Then the problem multiplies, because the distribution center and maybe even the factory are dependent of the just in time system.  If it is a wide spread emergency, it may take some time to get those gas cans back in stock.

So when you go into the grocery store look around and realize that is all the supplies that are available.  Now consider that on a normal week a supermarket will get between 12000 to 15000 customers.  Think about how long these supplies would last if there was a rush on the stores.  You will soon see that the only supplies you can count on are already in your home.

Pass this information along and hope it will encourage your family and friends to store food.

Howard

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3 Responses to How the Just in Time System Hurts Everyone in an Emergency

  1. gonewiththewind says:

    When I was in grade school I remember reading about and seeing pictures of giant government wharehouses full of butter, grains, powdered milk and other food items. I realize this wasn’t some grand plan to make sure we didn’t run out of food because it was in fact a plan where the government bought farm/dairy products to subsidize the farmer and make sure the highs and lows of markets didn’t adversely affect the ability to provide food. But never the less the point is at one time we might have had a years supply of food for all Americans in the event of a disaster. Today what food is stored is stored by farmers and private companies not the government. Now, it could still be a years supply of food but we don’t know and it probably won’t be “handed out” in the event of some disaster.

    Should the government, maybe in concert with farmers and the food industry, store food for possible disasters? I would say yes. It makes good sense, far more sense than it made in the 40’s and 50’s when I was in grade school. We do not know with any degree of certainty what will happen tomorrow, next year, ten years from now, etc. No company/corporation could or would do it. But it should be done and for all we know it may already be too late to do it effectively for the next big disaster.

  2. Richard says:

    An accountant will tell you that inventory is an asset – like cash. The problem is: cash can be invested and earn a return while inventory cannot. This theory of inventory is behind the JIT system. For this reason inventory is unpopular in many businesses in the US, western Europe, Japan, Korea, and Australia.

    You may have noticed that the US government sells surplus vehicles. I always wondered why. We paid for it. We paid a lot more than they are selling it for. If labor cost less and time and parts were available, those trucks could be repaired. But disposing of them as surplus creates a demand for a new truck and that drives higher taxes and jobs in the industries that supply trucks to the government.

    Another risk is mail-order. The local stores don’t keep inventory because so many of us shop on the web looking for the best deal. There might be a warehouse somewhere with a pile of fuel cans but it isn’t down the street from you so, for your purpose, it doesn’t exist.

    JIT (just in time) and internet businesses rely on shipping at an acceptable price and with reasonable delivery times. If anything interrupts that flow – flooding across a highway, interruptions in travel on interstate highways, fuel availability, ability to communicate an order, acceptability of credit – then JIT and internet ordering do not work.

    We conspire to make our hard times harder. How many have a small supply of bolts and screws? Wire? Wood? Tape? Glue? Tools for making things? How many practice making tools?

    The system has problems as it is. We are part of these systems and make the problems worse. Think about the systems required by a different reality (after a storm?) and prepare.

  3. Ed Harris says:

    JIT is standard practice throughout manufacturing as well, and a glitch anywhere along the supply chain, even for simple parts, can cause all sorts of problems.

    “For want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost….”

    https://www.swspitcrew.com/articles/For%20the%20want%20of%20a%20nail%201108.pdf

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