Just-in-Time Production: Just the Basics

When trying to improve the efficiency of a facility there are many different options to consider. For decades now, one of the best options is to implement just-in-time (JIT) production strategies. This is a concept that was originally started by the Toyota Motor Company as a key component of their Toyota Production System. This strategy has changed the way large-scale production was handled by many corporations. It is also one of the things that helped to start the concept of Lean Manufacturing.

This type of production is most often used when one particular product is created from beginning to end in one facility. It can also be used to complete assembling specific portions of a given product, which will then be sent on to another location for additional work, as long as all the steps in the production process are completed together. In either case, JIT production works by ‘pulling’ the parts and materials needed through the processes as they are needed.

Benefits of Just-in-Time Production

A properly implemented JIT production strategy will provide a facility with many different advantages. The specific benefits will vary some between companies, but in general you can expect to see things such as:

  • Reduced Costs – You will not have to store large amounts of parts or completed products in your inventory. Housing things can be very costly in itself. Add in the increased risk of damage, loss, theft, and other things and it is easy to see how JIT can reduce the overall costs of manufacturing.
  • Reduced Inventory – Keeping inventory to a minimum is a great benefit on its own. When something arrives in a facility that is conducting JIT production, it should be able to be brought directly to the area it will be used. This is more efficient than bringing it to a storage area, then later bringing it to where it will be used.
  • Improved Productivity – Employees will be spending less time moving materials around, and more time actually completing the production requirements. This makes them much more productivity throughout the day.
  • Reduction in Waste – Any time products or materials are kept in storage there is an increased risk of waste. JIT production reduces this type of unnecessary storage as much as possible so there is less risk of waste.
  • Increased Profitability – There are many things that contribute to the increased profitability. For example, with JIT production there is less need for building up large inventories of a product. This means there won’t be a need to put products on sale to clear out inventory, which means each product sells for a large amount.

Strategies to Help with JIT Production

One interesting thing about just-in-time production is that it is not a one size fits all solution to every production environment. Instead, it offers the concepts and goals that are to be followed but leaves the actual implementation to the discretion of the facility management. This has opened the doors for many different concepts and strategies to be used.

One example of this is using a strategy known as Kanban. This is a Japanese term that means visual card or visual sign. Kanban works extremely week in JIT production facilities. It is an inventory control system where cards or signs are used to indicate when specific materials are needed throughout the production process.

This can be done using physical cards that are placed into an area that can be seen by those who will bring new materials. When an area is getting low on a particular material they need, they put up one color card. If they run out of a material entirely, they can put up a different colored card. This will help to coordinate the ordering and delivery of various materials.

In today’s modern facilities it is quite common to use a digital form of the Kanban system. In this type of situation employees can alert the necessary teams that they are getting low on a material from anywhere in the facility. In many cases, it is even possible for an automated system to monitor the amount of a given material and notify the proper groups automatically when needed. This can be incorporated into ordering programs as well so that every area in the facility has exactly what they need, when they need it.

Is Just-in-Time Right for You?

Just-in-time production has a lot of advantages that can really help to take a company to the next level. This type of strategy, however, is not appropriate for every situation. If your facility only creates small batches of items, for example, it may not work properly. In addition, when a product has a large number of variations that may change regularly, it can be more difficult to run JIT production.

Analyzing your production requirements and comparing them with how JIT production works will help you to determine if this is a good solution for your environment. If it is, implementing JIT production will help you to become more competitive and successful than ever before.

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