Landscapes of Global Capital
tv globe icon link to home Just-in-time production

This morning strange things are happening all over the world.
Shops are about to open empty.
Parts suppliers are part-less and assembly workers have nothing to assemble.
Is this any way to run a business?
With FedEx it is.
Every morning the world gets just what it wants, just when it needs it.
Without expensive warehousing.
Gone today, here again tomorrow.
Now, that's the way the world works.

The frictionless distribution system. No waste, no excess. No lost time. And no conflict! This FedEx ad sums up the philosophy of just-in-time production. Coupling the speed and accuracy of computer information systems with a fleet of jets dedicated to shipping goods FedEx claims to have eliminated the cost of warehousing goods.

One of the major bottlenecks in the capitalist circulation process, stored goods not only hold up the circulation process, but also cost money to rent storage space, thus reducing profit margins. Managing inventory, that's the problem. The ad opens with the narrator's presupposition of a global perspective. The world she describes is one that seems to violate the basics of a well-managed system.

Shops are about to open empty.
Parts suppliers are part-less.
And assembly workers have nothing to assemble.
Is this any way to run a business?

But with
FedEx operating the circuitry, parts suppliers deliver parts just-in-time for the factory workers to assemble them, and finished-goods arrive just-in-time for the small shopkeepers to stock their shelves and serve their public. The ad is extraordinary in that it does actually sketch out a visual narrative of a global production system from the factories in Southeast Asia.

Quiet time at the
assembly plant
The just-in-time system depicted in the FedEx ad presumes near perfect timing and execution. And that is what FedEx is touting about itself -- it offers the perfectly rationalized tool for regulating your business.

This is consistent with how FedEx defines itself in its formal filings with the SEC: "FedEx Corporation is a global transportation and logistics enterprise that offers customers a one-stop source for global shipping, logistics and supply chain solutions through its subsidiaries FedEx, RPS and others." Managing the supply chain and getting through-put velocity of inventory -- this is the commodity market that FedEx and UPS compete over.

FedEx05-98 Once again, we are witness, via the ad, to imagery of a quiet revolution in the organization of the capitalist supply chain. Quiet revolutions do not appear to disrupt or dislocate, but rather reintegrate -- linking the local and the global in such a way that though we gain speed, we are never hurried. This is the vision set forth by FedEx -- a corporation with global reach that claims to coordinate geographies with clocklike precision and reliability.

FedEx05-98 FedEx05-98

Perfect Timing in Coordinating Geographies -- parts and workers arrive at the same time at the same place. Bringing time and place together in this coordinated and planned fashion is predicated on using jet transit as a means of overcoming space. In the lingo of social theory, it depends on space-time compression.

New Economic Formations
Social Relations of Production
Information Economy

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Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey