Reader Aggie made the comment: "...The 'Just-in-time' concept is great - for assembly line manufacturing. What about systems that are subject to disproportionately-powerful outside influences?...If you truly believe in 'Just-in-time' - then why do you stock a pantry?..."
Aggie nailed two key points.
Just-in-Time can be a powerful driver of problem-solving IF the box is drawn around a system where the stakeholders have the wherewithal to solve the problems. It becomes significantly more problematic when processes "within the box" are subject to forces...noise if you prefer...that are not under the control of the stakeholders.
The second point is that food is different.
|At the farm level, the yields varied even more wildly|
Farm production can vary greatly from year-to-year. Some crops vary more than others. Corn and soybeans are fairly robust. Wheat varies more due to susceptibility to being blown-down in wind and hail storms and susceptibility to fungus. Due to its susceptibility to various fungi, much wheat is grown in dry regions and yield is tightly linked to the amount of moisture in the ground in the 75 days before the crop matures.
Fruits like apples and peaches yields vary even more with many parts of the country having a peach "crop" once every five years. In my own apple "orchard" the difference between a "bad" year and a "good" year is a factor of three or more.
Even if every harvest was a record, there is still the issue of most crops only being ready to harvest once a year. There are some exceptions like dairy cows and eggs, but the foodstuffs used to feed the cows and chickens generally fall into that once-a-year-bucket so you are not home-free.
And while there is flexibility within "food" as a category the bottom line is that things get very tense, very fast when the gross food-availability drops below 2500 Calories per-person-per-day. There are no substitutes for "Calories".
The effect of supply shocks is to pull ahead "demand".
People who were sure they could pick up a loaf of French Bread at Kroger's for the evening meal are now buying ahead.
The sad thing is that if you don't know how to store food then the food will spoil. The johnny-come-lately prepper not only denied others of food but find themselves without it as well.
The work around is to store an ample supply of non-perishable staples that are accepted by a wide range of eaters. Rice, potatoes, wheat (in grain form), beans, pasta, canned goods, sugar, raisins, edible oils/shortening and so on. If you have access to them then wild nuts (bumper crop of Black Walnuts here) and late apples are a nice addition. Fermented foods and beverages are often in demand.
I do use JIT or principles of lean manufacturing in making applesauce.
I cook enough apples in each batch to make a canner-load of mason jars. The first load must be a little bit bigger because I cannot get to the liquid beneath the false bottom of the double boiler setup. The last load is a little larger because I can harvest that liquid as I "break-down" the set-up for the day.
Is every load EXACTLY seven quarts worth of apples? Nope. Most are a little bit more and I end up with more than 28 at the end of the run.
Am I tempted to make them much more than seven quarts? No. The larger the batch of apples the more slowly the ones on top cook to mush. It doesn't pay.
Right now the bottleneck is the canner on the stove. The turkey-fryer puts out 55k BTU/hour and takes apples from 60F to 210F in a little more than 30 minutes. Note that I don't run it full blast once it comes-to-heat.
The canner on the 15k BTU/hr takes the same amount of apples (less skins, seeds and stems) plus the water in the canner from 160F to 210F in about an hour and fifteen minutes.
I could easily double my production rate by firing up a second 55k BTU turkey-fryer outside and using it for the canning kettle. I could quadruple it by adding a third 55k BTU for a second kettle of apples-to-mush to feed the canning kettle.
But then I would be the bottleneck and I don't want to run that fast all day long.
Industry in first-world countries recognize the human costs as the biggest barrier to profitabilility. Profitable systems are designed to make the human inputs "the anchor with the shortest chain" and be the bottleneck. Written a different way, the goal of designing modern, industrial equipment is to never have the operator waiting for the equipment. Rather, the equipment should be done and waiting for the operator.