Many interesting business ideas have popped up aimed at leveraging the efficiencies available when you utilise the Internet as the order point for sales. Given our “global economy” and advanced manufacturing processes the time it takes to go from clicking the order button to shipping a product has made just in time (JIT) manufacturing a real option for many business.
One of the restrictions in the past that stopped most companies from using JIT-M was that it could take time, too much time. You don’t want customers waiting months to receive their goods. Consequently only companies that could tightly control the manufacturing and distribution process could afford to use this method or even hope to make it work efficiently. Obviously it was totally off the radar for the home or small business, that is until now.
The speed of communication makes JIT-M a reality for companies of all sizes. The Internet has made it possible to access JIT at the click of a mouse with products produced and delivered as they are ordered online. Because the web enables manufacturing companies to have a global reach they can offer the benefits of JIT-M to almost any source, including small business and even consumers.
Just recently I came across a site that is an innovative user of JIT on the web providing business to consumer (B2C) product on demand.
Lulu.com offers book authors an outlet to self publish and “create” books using a JIT system. Books are manufactured and shipped as they are purchased by consumers. The author takes a royalty and Ms. Lulu provides everything else, including payment processing, manufacturing and shipping. Best of all the service is completely free for book writers and still gives them complete creative control including design and copyrights. I think Lulu is the self-publisher’s dream.
Lulu.com: Traditional publishers generally print thousands of copies of a given book all at once. This creates a lower cost per copy, but it requires a large publishing company that can foot the bill for all that printing and storage up front. Publishers take most of the money from book sales, and the author gets only a little bit. Lulu gives you financial control by making it possible and profitable to print a single copy.
From a JIT point of view the benefits of producing books as they are purchased are obvious:
- No wasted inventory (except perhaps raw materials – but they can often be reused.)
- Less risk involved for all parties – publishers, printers and authors.
- No start-up costs.
- You profit when each sale is made.
Economies of scale should help Lulu to continue to reduce costs and increase margins as they become more popular and the more popular they become the better the site will be because more books will be available. This will in turn benefit the authors on the site because there will be more traffic coming to potentially buy their books. Even simply as a self-publisher’s manufacturer Lulu offers an affordable way for an author to see his or her book in print.