I was being trained up as a logistician just at the tail end of the transition from having mountains of spares, repairs, and stock items piled into warehouse to “just in time” delivery. In theory, JIT reduces operating costs and usually comes with a minimal risk of going “stock out” or not actually having what you need. It’s a system that works very well, right up until the moment where it stops working. Then there’s hell to pay while everyone scrambles.
I’ve never been the guy who thought he needed a lifetime supply of rice and beans stashed away in the basement. Nothing in the pandemic has changed my mind on that. I think JIT is probably still a valid approach to just about everything we use on a regular basis. In all but truly exceptional circumstances, supply chains work exactly the way they’re designed.
I’m not running out to buy a 50-gallon drum of rice or ordering the 1000-serving Costco bucket of mac and cheese. I am, however, making a list of those items I’ve needed to order that ended up being stock delayed in the face of extreme demand. History tells me that having received an extreme demand signal for these items, there are factories and plants around the country rushing to fill the gap. When all this is over, demand for most of these items will drop just as quickly as it surged – and there will be a lag as material continues to surge through the supply chain towards the consumer market.
So, I’m making a list. Fortunately, most of what’s gone backordered or been delivery delayed are things that can sit for years without going bad. When these formerly hard to find items are swamping the marketplace and being sold off at a discount, that’ll be the time to step in and stack ‘em deep against future temporary supply disruptions… You know, assuming I survive the Great Plague.