Are you familiar with the “just-in-time” inventory system used now throughout the modern world as a way for manufacturers and retailers to control costs? If not, you need to become acquainted with what it is and, more importantly, what it means to you when distressed conditions arise quickly and essentially wipe out any preparation time that might have remained if the onset of trouble occurred at a much slower pace.
Have you ever gone into a retail store to look for an item, only to find its labeled space on the shelf but no actual item in its place? Sure, we all have. When you ask the clerk if they’re really all out…if there are any “in the back,” what are you normally told? You’re told, “No, everything we have is out here; the item you want is going to be in on the next shipment.”
If you have had that happen to you, you’ve been exposed in small way to the downside (for the consumer) of just-in-time inventory. This method of cost control was established for the benefit of business, not the consumer, and the idea behind it is that retailers and manufacturers found they could save a lot of money by providing goods only as needed in real time, thus saving them a lot of money in the areas of inventory management and storage. Referring to the above example, the retail establishment keeps just as much as it has to on hand to occupy the shelves, which means it can save money on rent because it doesn’t need, in addition to the storefront, a large storage space in the back to hold inventory.
Just-in-time inventory does not exist simply at the individual, retail store level. If you go back one step from the store level, there’s the company warehouse from where store inventory is shipped, and JIT applies there, as well; the warehouse will keep as little product as it needs to on hand, which controls costs at that part of the supply chain. They will interact with manufacturers in such a way so that they receive product no sooner than needed, keeping inventory-related costs down all the way around.
JIT inventory is a great approach for business, but can be lousy for the consumer who needs goods in a pinch. In cases of sudden emergencies, store shelves will be emptied very quickly, and should the nature of the emergency be such that it interferes with the regular transport of goods to the now-empty retail locations, those who do not already have a healthy reserve of essentials could be in big trouble.
Keep this in mind, because it is how business is now done. Stock up now on emergency food reserves and other essentials, because should troubles descend on us very rapidly, there will be no time or opportunity for the unprepared to get prepared.
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