Letter Re: A Cautionary Tale of the Consequences of the Lean Supply Chain

Dear Mr. Rawles,

I have been reading your blog for about a year (sincere thanks for a great job) and have introduced a few dozen folks to its collected wisdom. I pass along this article, from The Telegraph in the United Kingdom, that speaks to the mounting impact/consequences of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

For a long time I have had concerns about the practice that manufacturing businesses have adopted for managing their supplies and inventory – namely the employment of Lean Supply Chain (LSC) manufacturing techniques. While companies (nations) reduce expense for maintaining inventory, in the short run, by utilizing LSC and “just in time inventory” techniques, they leave themselves very vulnerable to long wave, black swan, etc. events – such as a war, volcanism, earthquake, civil unrest, or other natural, or man made disasters. Given the total lack of responsiveness (by our “leaders” to our current man made economic disaster I have little hope that these same “leaders” would learn lessons from this ongoing natural disaster. While cost savings and efficient manufacturing operations are greatly enhanced, utilizing LSC techniques, it might be prudent to rethink / realign critical supplies, maintaining sufficient inventory for critical items that should be kept locally in quantity.

In addition, the current plight of the ten’s of thousands of people stranded around the world as result of the shutdown of the European portion of the air transport network should make one realize that maintaining multiple, expansive transportation modalities, (i.e. the deplorable state of American Railways comes to mind, and the U.S. Merchant Marine, which died of neglect 40 years ago) would be a good thing. Sadly there are very few passenger ships operating today under any flag – those that do exist are prohibitively expensive – the affluent need only apply (afford) bookings if they were available, which they are not for at least three to six months out. In closing, the ongoing Eyjafjallajokull event should serve as further validation for SurvivalBlog readers to prepare – the consequences of the engineered lack of redundancy (to “save” money utilizing LSC) will be in the news for some time after this particular event ends.

We live in a very fragile world and it grows more brittle by the month. Best Regards, – Nemesis in Northern Virginia