"Just in Time" Inventory


John Wright


Good grief! Is John diminished to the point he will talk about old work topics from the bygone era when he was a player? Yes, he is. This sad state of affairs comes about because John is a customer in the new world of extremely limited, no, non-existent retailer inventories. Customer Service, what a quaint notion, has disappeared. Arggh!

I am struggling with trying to buy items at retail prices to complete a porch. Now that isnít anything special, is it? Home Depot® sells proletarian junk that I will not buy, as I am afflicted with an old disease known as "good taste." So I launched my quest into the great hyperspace of Internet to find products worth owning. What did I find? Many pretty pictures and high prices were abundant Ö clearly high quality and good taste. I found I could order these items so easily that I could complete the entire process in five minutes. What a time saving treat! I didnít have to drive anywhere!

Then, my credit card having been charged, the fun began. First, I received sales receipts by email in perfect order, showing what I ordered, how much and the total cost, including shipping. Alas, the word backorder appeared everywhere. When I called the retailers I learned to my dismay that even the factories were on backorder. It seems the producers also donít like to have inventory. My wait periods varied from one week to seven weeks. In one instance I learned that a plant in Thailand had just burned down, and my order would require more than 12 months to fill.

Who did this to us, Walt Disney or Stephen King? The Marquis de Sade must be the CEO! All of a sudden all past notions I had about buying something, paying for it and getting it flew out the window. Now I pay in advance and wait Ö and wait Ö and wait. Numerous phone calls do not help expedite anything. My most recent disaster had me chasing a product that should have shipped from Montana three weeks ago. Instead, it was a manufacture order in a West Chester, PA plant that I pass every month Ö and the product had to travel to Montana and then come to me. I am still waiting.

Why am I waiting? I am a fool. Actually, I am starting to laugh, for one day soon the Chinese will beat the USA middlemen and manufacturers and ship direct from factories in the Far East to retail customers in the USA. All they have to do is put up a few webpages in understandable English and they will bury our producers and retailers. It is all a matter of CUSTOMER SERVICE for those of us who have doubloons rolling out of our hindquarters!

Okay, I will be deadly serious for a moment. Think about life in the USA prior to 1980 or even 1990. We were a manufacturing nation. Our manufacturers created inventory. Our retailers absorbed part of that inventory. When we purchased almost anything we either found the retailer ready to deliver immediately, or, within a week, as the manufacturers were more than ready to make immediate shipments either directly to the retailer or indirectly from a regional warehouse. Something has changed, hasnít it?

Imagine yourself as a resident of Hawaii in 1960. Whatever you wanted had to be shipped from the mainland. You would have to wait many weeks for delivery. Why? Because Hawaii was not a manufacturing location for much of anything. Today we are learning what it means to be without local, regional or national manufacturing capacity. I hear the assholes preach about the economics of offshoring Ö and this is the result Ö we donít have reasonable choices anymore. Our standard of living has gone down. I hope their profits please you as your life regresses to something less than we had in 1900.

Just in time? For what?