For many years, the word inventory has been a dirty word in the world of business. Factories expect their parts to show up at the docks and head directly to the assembly line. Management teams at retail stores want fashion that arrives ready to display and sell. The idea of devoting space to unsold and unfinished merchandise has been simply unthinkable.

Now many of these same businesses are rethinking the unthinkable.  They are wondering why the supply chains they thought were so resilient broke down so quickly when faced with a worldwide pandemic and a world full of sudden lockdowns. They are wondering if the “just in time” (JIT) method of supply chain management is really all it is cracked up to be.  Many business owners and management teams are taking a second look at how they manage inventory.  From that, they are now growing to appreciation something called the “just in case” (JIC) approach.

In many ways, the just in case (JIC) method of supply chain management is the opposite of the just in time (JIT) model. Instead of viewing inventory as something to be avoided at all costs, proponents of the just in case paradigm are happy to welcome extra component parts, excess products waiting for the sales floor and surplus inventory.

There are certainly some potential drawbacks to having all that inventory hanging around waiting for its moment in the sun. The owners of a retail store may find that the extra bikinis they bought in the spring are unlikely to sell now that summer is coming to an end. A sudden shift in consumer behaviour and ordering patterns could leave a factory or service owner with a warehouse full of components that will never be used. At the very least, that excess inventory will mean paying for additional warehouse space, along with the risk that those items will get lost or damaged along the way.  However, all of these negatives can be managed.

One of the biggest benefits of the just in case supply chain management model is less uncertainty. Instead of waiting by the docks for the component parts they need to arrive, service managers can simply head to the warehouse and pick them off the shelves. Instead of seeing eager buyers leave disappointed and empty-handed, retail customers will head out the door with the latest fashions.  The just in case (JIC) method of inventory control and supply chain management can also reduce transportation costs, especially in regards to costly overnight shipments. The extra expenses incurred by shipping much-needed products quickly could more than negate the supposed savings of the JIT model, giving business owners yet another reason to make the change.

In the end, the best form of supply chain management and inventory control is the one that works for you and your business. Recent events have shown that every type of inventory management has its limitations. Unforeseen circumstances can always throw even the best laid plans into chaos. Finding the best option will mean looking at a number of different options, including the much-maligned just in case paradigm.