Decades ago, companies were in the habit of stockpiling supplies, but that all changed with a concept called Just in Time. Created by the Japanese automaker Toyota, this approach involves having parts delivered to factories “just in time” to be used. The deliveries occur precisely when parts are needed, which avoids the expense and storage required to maintain a vast inventory.
In the past 50 years, many industries followed Toyota’s example. By using Just in Time, it seemed that everyone, from medical supply companies to food manufacturers to clothing lines, was able to cut costs while staying flexible and nimbly adapting as consumers’ needs and preferences changed. It all seemed like a great idea — until the world faced a pandemic, as well as other disrupting factors.