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ATLANTA-The sky did not fall when the brown trucks' engines went quiet.

Most businesses were ready for the strike by United Parcel Service of America Inc.'s 185,000 union workers. Contingency plans hashed out well in advance of the walkout kept goods moving last week, and disruptions for many companies were minimal.

"We started over six weeks ago developing a contingency plan," said Jo-Marie Lilly, senior vp with NM Direct, the Irving, Texas-based catalog division of Neiman Marcus department stores.

NM Direct arranged for an unidentified transportation firm to carry catalog orders to the U.S. Post Office bulk mail center nearest the packages' final destinations. That kept orders out of the postal system, which was laden with shipments UPS normally carried.

As a result, disruptions have been minimal, Ms. Lilly said.

"We anticipated this," said a spokeswoman for Dell Computer Corp. in Austin, Texas. "Being a logistically driven company, we put a contingency plan in place" that involved transferring shipments to other transportation companies, she added. "It's business as usual."

The Budd Co., a supplier of parts to the automotive industry, said last week it hadn't encountered significant problems as a result of the strike, according to Louis J. Drapeau, manager-insurance and risk management. "I'm sure there's been some interruption, but not to the point of being disruptive."

The Pep Boys: Manny Moe & Jack also were well situated. The Philadelphia-based auto parts and service chain always has relied on couriers other than UPS, and while it expected delays as those companies became burdened with extra shipments, "it's not had much of an effect at all," a spokesman noted.

That isn't to say that all businesses are out of the woods.

Those that operate with "just-in-time" inventory systems were the most vulnerable to problems, an expert suggests.

"The idea behind just-in-time is not to have a lot of stock on hand," said Michael K. Evans, professor of economics at the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Heavy manufacturers, machinery makers, metal producers and similar industries in many cases rely on transportation companies to provide inventory practically as needed, he added. A prolonged strike could keep those companies waiting for some inventory and lead to production losses.

A UPS spokeswoman would not say how much the strike is costing but said the daily totals are high for the company, which earned more than $1 billion last year. She said the delivery giant is relying on self-insurance funds and existing lines of credit to cover expenses and losses related to the strike.

Its own contingency plan included canceling all money-back guarantees. The company also rejected a request by the Independent Pilots Assn. to pay the hotel expenses of pilots who abandoned UPS planes when the strike began.

Relying on management and non-Teamster employees, UPS managed to deliver about 10% of its normal daily volume last week.