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From Dr. Scott Sampson's Understanding Services Businesses Book (click for table of contents)
SBP 5c: Positioning Amid Customers and Competitors⇐Prior —[in Unit 5: Identifying Strategic Opportunities]— Next⇒SBP 5e: Service Exporting

SBP 5d: JIT Information

With services that process information, strategic advantages can be gained by using technology to switch from batch processing to delivery on demand (JIT - or “Just In Time”). JIT information is a “pull” system, meaning that information is processed as the customer requests it. This switch to JIT information can in fact convert an information manufacturing process into an information service process.

Why it occurs

This principle occurs because when the customer dictates what information they want, that is a form of customization, which changes the procedures of the information provider. (Customized information providers operate differently than mass-produced information providers.)


Up until recently, information was provided to customers in many industries in physical form. Telephone companies produced phone books, retailers produced catalogs, textbook publishers produced textbooks, news agencies produced newspapers, and banks produced bank statements. In each of these cases, the company collects information over time, compiles it into an overall document, then sells or gives the entire document to the customer. There can be problems with this approach:

  • What if the customer is only interested in a small portion of the information? Why should we waste all of that glossy paper on a fancy catalog when all I care about is the small sporting goods section? Why do students have to pay for an entire text, when in a normal semester there is only time to cover a third of the chapters?
  • What if the customer needed the information before the company was ready to distribute it? What if I need a phone number of a new person before the next edition of the phone book arrives? What if there is a problem with my bank account before the bank statement arrives?
  • Is there some chance that the big batches of information companies send might contribute to “information overload”? Wouldn't it be better if they just sent the information that we need when we need it? Why do I have to dig through all of the garbage and gore that is described in newspaper headlines in order to find those stories that are worth reading? Can't they just give me the type of stories I want to read?

Up until recently, the answer to all of these questions would have been “it is not practical to deliver information JIT.” However, with recent advances in information technology, particularly Internet technologies, it has become very practical to provide JIT information production and delivery. It is important to note that since JIT information is a “pull” system (the customer pulls or requests the specific information), an additional service element (i.e. customer input) is introduced into the information delivery process.

For example

Internet An easy way to find telephone number information today is via information services on the Internet. The customer types in the name, the city, or other identifying information, and the computer looks up that the phone number.

The World Wide Web is particularly suited to provide product catalog information just as the customer requests it. If a company decides to add or change sale information, they can do it instantaneously.

Textbook publishers will now allow instructors to select chapters and writings from various authors, and publish them in one volume just-in-time for the new semester.

Many major newspapers have put their news stories on-line, allowing customers to request just the stories and information of interest to them. Further, a technology called “agents” will select a combination of stories based on a profile of the customer's interests.

Many bank statements have gone on-line, allowing customers to view or download up-to-the-hour account information. Customers who do not track their check register as closely as they should can view their balances and spot if they need to transfer funds earlier than they would if they had to wait for the next mailed statement.

My airline example

Up until quite recently, if people wanted to compare the flight schedules of various airlines, they would either call a travel agent or purchase a flight guide. This latter method is an example of batch delivery of information. Now customers can enter their departure and arrival preferences into an on-line system, and the computer will list possible flights, including fares and restrictions.

How manufacturing differs

With manufacturing, specifically manufacturing of information, the information product is assembled from raw-material information, and delivered as a final package to the customer. JIT information involves delaying final processing of the information until after the customer requests it.

Analysis questions

  1. What information is delivered in batch?
  2. What advantages are there to batch delivery?
  3. What disadvantages are there to batch delivery?
  4. In what ways could the information be delivered just when needed, and only what is needed?

Application exercise

Identify a type of non-customer information that is necessary to complete your service process, such as weather reports, supply information, regulation information, etc. List the information and where it comes from. Describe the form that the information arrives in. Does the information arrive just as needed, or a batch at a time? How much of the information does the service process need at a given time? Describe how the information could arrive a batch at a time, and how the information could arrive JIT. List advantages of the JIT approach, such as having more up-to-date information. What technologies would be involved in the JIT delivery of the information? Is JIT information delivery practical in this situation? Describe why or why not.

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== Public sections == * [[usb:toc|Understanding Service Businesses]] book. * [[ibm:ssme:ust|UST paradigm for Service Science]] * [[ibm:ssme:cambridge07|Cambridge 2007 notes]] ---- * [[:start]] * [[http://services.byu.edu/sw/doku.php?do=index|Site map]] * [[http://services.byu.edu/sw/doku.php?do=recent|Recent Changes]] * [[:wiki:dokuwiki|Help]] == Private sections == * [[gscm:pub|BYU GSCM student recruiting]] * [[ibm:scm|IBM SCM case study]] * [[cos:top|Commoditization of Services]] research

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