Just in case or just-in-time?
Just-in-time is a management concept originating from Japan. The basic idea is that everything happens “just-in-time”; materials and supplies arrive just in time for production to start, and production finishes just in time for the customer to take it. With not much room of error, if a supplier fails to deliver goods on time production is disrupted and may even cease. Normally companies that use the just-in-time philosophy have close supplier relationships and tend not to run into supply problems. The savings from reduced inventory levels are obvious. Recent events in Japan however have raised issues about how tight things can get with just-in-time. A disastrous earthquake/tsunami in March this year left parts of Japan’s east cost in ruins. Factories were destroyed and power supplies disrupted for months. An article in The Economist (March 31, 2011) mentions how global firms are re-thinking how the manage production following events in Japan. According to the article, one company that controls 90% of the market for a resin is in smartphones had ceased production. Another company which supplies 70% of the global supply of a polymer used in iPod batteries is also out of action. And, car manufacturers in Japan and America have had to cut back on production as parts are in short supply. The events in Japan have prompted some commentators to say a “just-in-case” systems is also needed, according to the Economist.