The Case AGAINST – Just in Case

World class organizations understand the danger of actions that are taken; “just in case”. Those words actually become a red flag for operations that value science as the foundation for making decisions. Operational Excellence has several tactics for being prepared including safety stock, Failure Modes Effect Analysis, and Poke Yoke. But these tactics are based on a detailed thought process, observation, and data. The problem with the “Just in Case” methodology is a missing well thought out justification.

The waste in “Just in Case” is over processing, over production, and inventory.

Just in Case Over Processing

Quality is essential in today’s markets for just about any product or service. Expectation of consumers and supply chains is very high for quality. This can lead to a just in case scenario that is very expensive.

Suppose a steel manufacturer supplied plates of steel to a customer. Once back in 1968, (50 years ago at the time of this post) a batch of 4 plates was sent back to the supplier because of “pitting” on the surface of the plates. The cost of the return was expensive. Not only the freight, reprocessing of the metal, and missed delivery, but the reputation of the company was damaged.

The visibility of the event caused metallurgy and quality to get involved who determined that grinding an extra 0.001 off each plate would ensure there was never any pitting. When the operators suggested they had processed thousands of plates without pitting and the extra 0.001 would require an additional pass that would take 10 minutes on each plate, the leadership said, “just do it”. When asked why, the response was “Just in Case if ever happens again.

Just in Case Over Production

Having the product, the customer wants immediately when the customer wants it is part of the ideal excellent companies pursue. Falling short on the order just as it is about to ship is a common fear, but the countermeasure is often costly. Many traditional companies build in extra time and quantity at several steps in the process to avoid falling short. Production control adds a few days and few extra pieces. The first step will extrude, or melt, or assemble a few extra…. All thinking of course that they want to make sure there is enough … just in case. The result is extra product that took extra time and may have in fact held up other orders causing them to be late.

Just in Case Inventory

Markets now demand a broad range of products and a large selection to choose from. Nothing is more frustrating than just throwing away a mold or a customer box for a slow moving finished good only to have it ordered the next day. This experience, however, can cause rows and rows of warehouse space reserved for the Just in Case order. One company actually had entire room called the box room for all left over custom boxes, just in case someone ordered that specific model. There was no organization to the room and it would be hard to find the right box if it ever were ordered.

Help your organization see the cost of just in case decisions and avoid making them.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He is also the founder of UTV Advisors, a business consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.



Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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