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Just in Time and the UK Supply Chain.

The concept of supplying food and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) using the Just In Time (JIT) methodology has caused many to reflect upon what could happen if there was an interruption in supply. The more extreme and sensationalist commentators have suggested that an interruption in supply and distribution of more than 3 days would see supermarket shelves empty; that we are only nine meals from anarchy.

But every process involves risks at differing levels. Identifying where systems can fail is all part of processes involving risk analysis, assessment, management and system control. Worst case scenarios like those suggested above will form part of the analysis in order to reduce the risk of such eventualities.

Prior to the JIT inventory supply system, the practice of holding large reserve inventories in order to respond to increased demand or shortages was the norm. This came with additional costs to the supplier, wholesaler, retailer and consumer and in comparison was less efficient. It also carried with it the risk of spoilage, waste and also supply interruption, dependent upon where the stocks were located.

Indeed many sectors are involved with the practice of JIT. Manufacturers are highly dependent upon the process for the production of cars, vans and trucks in particular. At every stage of the process parts and components are delivered at the precise time they are required. Without stocks, a failed delivery of just one small part can stop production. But this is a known scenario and the processes have built-in checks and balances based on experience and practice to reduce the risk of lost production. After all, the cost to a vehicle manufacture of such an event could result in billions in lost revenue and additional costs.

The critical and common denominator in JIT is transportation, ensuring that the products and materials are delivered at exactly the right time. The flow of supply cannot be broken and logistical planning, coordination of driver availability, load, equipment, route planning has become a highly technical process in line with the demands of JIT. Every aspect of risk to the flow of supply has to be analysed and planned for, with contingencies if a breach in the plan is experienced or identified.

Broken down further the vocational driver has to be trained, qualified and fully aware of the consequences of any failure to deliver. This then reveals the importance of and reliance on the HR or Fleet Manager. A failure to identify driver risk can put at risk the logistical plan and the JIT process itself. This is where the importance of continual driver risk assessment plays a massive part in the supply and delivery process.

Licence Link, the online licence checking service has long been associated with helping to reduce driver risk and the time taken to administer the process of licence checking. Including the necessary checks upon DQC/CPC and Tacho Card validation. The service has benefited many organisations who are heavily involved with the Just In Time process. Filtering out and acting upon critical alerts relating to a driver’s readiness and entitlement to drive is synergetic with JIT. An essential composite part of reducing the risk to the UK Supply Chain.

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