Just-in-time manufacturing

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Just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing, also known as just-in-time production or the Toyota production system (TPS), is a methodology aimed primarily at reducing flow times within production as well as response times from suppliers and to customers. Following its origin and development in Japan, largely in the 1960s and 1970s and particularly at Toyota,[1][2] JIT migrated to Western industry in the 1980s, where its features were put into effect in many manufacturing companies—as is attested to in several books[3][4][5][6][7] and compendia of case studies and articles from the 1980s.[8][9][10][11]

Alternative terms for JIT manufacturing have been used. Motorola's choice was short-cycle manufacturing (SCM).[12][13] IBM's was continuous-flow manufacturing (CFM),[14][15] and demand-flow manufacturing (DFM), a term handed down from consultant John Constanza at his Institute of Technology in Colorado.[16] Still another alternative was mentioned by Goddard, who said that "Toyota Production System is often mistakenly referred to as the 'Kanban System,'" and pointed out that kanban is but one element of TPS, as well as JIT production.[17]

But the wide use of the term JIT manufacturing throughout the 1980s faded fast in the 1990s, as the new term lean manufacturing became established[18][19] as "a more recent name for JIT."[20] As just one testament to the commonality of the two terms, Toyota production system (TPS) has been and is widely used as a synonym for both JIT and lean manufacturing.[21][22]


The nature of just-in-time, meaning JIT manufacturing/production or JIT in any other setting (e.g., administration[23][24]), may be reduced to four somewhat differently stated views.

  • Many have said that JIT revolves around wastes: "At its core, JIT is a waste-elimination philosophy . . . ."[25] Among the earliest writings on the matter, Shingo lists, as the "7 wastes," the wastes of: over-production, waiting, transportation, processing itself, stocks [inventories], motion, and making defective products.[26]
  • Others have equated JIT production with kanban. For example, one book has both kanban and just-in-time in its main title.[27]
  • Still others assert that JIT's main aim is elimination of inventories, although Murray maintains that "JIT is defined as 'NOT an inventory control system—but a way of thinking, working and management to eliminate wastes in the manufacturing process'.[28] In keeping with that view, JIT manufacturing has often been referred to in contrast to the more conventional just-in-case (JIC) mode: JIC keeps extra inventories to be used in case of disruptions (e.g., scrap, rework, equipment breakdowns, late deliveries), whereas JIT continually reduces such inventory buffers by continually attacking causes of disruptions.[29][need quotation to verify] Zero Inventories is the title of a 1983 book by Hall,[30] but the book actually does not suggest that JIT is mainly about inventory; rather the book features quick setup, cells (group technology), kanban, and so on, and zero inventory is posed only as an unattainable ideal, one that is easy to see and count.
  • The fourth view is that JIT is mainly about quick response, relating to the "T"—for "time"—in JIT. As Blackburn put it, "Quick response is one of the major benefits of JIT. Time or speed is the linchpin of this manufacturing philosophy. Inventory, on the other hand, is an ancillary benefit."[31] Quick response refers alternatively to reduction of cycle times,[32] flow times, throughput times, and, all the way to the customer, lead times: "JIT," according to Bicheno, has the "provocative goal," of producing "instantaneously, with perfect quality and minimum waste," and he goes on to qualify "instantaneously" by saying, "The ideal way to produce the end product is literally just in time to meet the market demand for it. Thus, JIT is primarily a lead-time reduction programme."[33]

The four JIT views—referring to wastes, kanban, inventory, and quick response/lead-time reduction—do not suggest opposing views, but rather appear to be complementary points of emphasis, collectively serving to describe the essence of JIT.

Aside from the four viewpoints, Just in time has often been paired with total quality control, forming the acronym, JIT/TQC.[34][35][36] The rationale is that TQC avoids stoppages and slowdowns disruptive to the quick-flow aims of JIT; and JIT exposes quality issues and their causes soon after they occur, thus facilitating their elimination.


Sepheri provides a list of methodologies of JIT manufacturing that "are important but not exhaustive":[37]

  • Housekeeping – physical organization and discipline.
  • Make it right the first time – elimination of defects.
  • Setup reduction – flexible changeover approaches.
  • Lot sizes of one – the ultimate lot size and flexibility.
  • Uniform plant load – leveling as a control mechanism.
  • Balanced flow – organizing flow scheduling throughput.
  • Skill diversification – multi-functional workers.
  • Control by visibility – communication media for activity.
  • Preventive maintenance – flawless running, no defects.
  • Fitness for use – producibility, design for process.
  • Compact plant layout – product-oriented design.
  • Streamlining movements – smoothing materials handling.
  • Supplier networks – extensions of the factory.
  • Worker involvement – small group improvement activities.
  • Cellular manufacturing – production methods for flow.
  • Pull system – signal [kanban] replenishment/resupply systems.

Voss and Clutterbuck offer, in a different style, their own list of "some" of JIT's methodologies,[10] That list, following, includes citations from other sources.

  • Flow/layout.[38]
  • Smoothed line build rate.[39]
  • Mixed modeling [...] to allow the concurrent assembly of different models on the same line.[40]
  • Set-up time reduction.[41]
  • Work in process (WIP) reduction.
  • Kanban [...] a pull system that triggers the movement of materials from one operations through to the next.[42]
  • Quality [...] a prerequisite of successful JIT.
  • Product simplification, e.g., using fewer and common parts.
  • Standardized containers.[43]
  • Preventive maintenance [...] removal of the uncertainty of breakdowns.,[44] often referred to as total productive maintenance (TPM)[45]
  • Flexible workforce, via (e.g.) cross-training.
  • Organisation in modules or cells.
  • Continuous improvement.
  • JIT purchasing.[46]

Two notable elements of JIT purchasing that could be separately listed are single-sourcing and "milk runs."

  • Single-sourcing means using just one supplier of a given item or items, thus to reduce complexities and difficulties in developing JIT relationships with the supplier base. Hall states that if the single-source fails to perform, "an alternative source is available." In contrasting terminology, a sole source means there is no other source with suitable capability, possible for technological or quality reasons. Hall goes on to say that in case of a fire at the supplier plant or other emergency, "some reserve capacity in supplier operations dedicated to other networks can be called to cover it. One localized calamity does not destroy everything, and if the supplier has good people involvement, strikes are a minimal risk."[47]
  • Milk runs, in JIT purchasing, are rather like the way that the milk man of old made daily "JIT" deliveries in small quantities to multiple customers: "A typical milk-run truck makes a daily circuit of three to five suppliers and brings a mixed load of material from each back to the customer plant.[48]

One item missing from the Voss and Clutterbuck list, is visual management (on Sepheri's list as "housekeeping" and as "control by visibility): everything orderly, simple, and easily seen and found[49]--formalized as the 5 S's (referring to five ways to make things visible, clean, and orderly).[50][51]


"Exactly how JIT emerged as an approach to manufacturing management is obscured in an inevitable cloud of mythology [though] it is clear that its development was primarily in Japan . . . ." The author of that statement goes on to say that the first to use JIT was not Toyota but was Japan's shipyards, "which wanted to establish firmer control over the deliver of steel plate and fittings . . . .",[52] a point echoed by Goddard.[17]

Evolution in Japan[edit]

Why in Japan rather than other countries? Plenert offers four reasons, paraphrased here. During Japan's post-World War II rebuilding of industry: 1. Japan's lack of cash made it difficult for industry to finance the big-batch, large inventory production methods common elsewhere. 2. Japan lacked space to build big factories loaded with inventory. 3. The Japanese islands were (and are) lacking in natural resources with which to build products. 4. Japan had high unemployment, which meant that labor efficiency methods were not an obvious pathway to industrial success. Thus the Japanese "leaned out" their processes. "They built smaller factories . . . in which the only materials housed in the factory were those on which work was currently being done. In this way, inventory levels were kept low, investment in in-process inventories was at a minimum, and the investment in purchased natural resources was quickly turned around so that additional materials were purchased." Plenart goes on to explain Toyota's key role in developing this lean or JIT production methodology.[53]

Migration to the West[edit]

News about JIT/TPS reached western shores in 1977 in two English-language articles: One referred to the methodology as the "Ohno system," after Taiichi Ohno, who was instrumental in its development within Toyota.[54] The other article, by Toyota authors in an international journal, provided additional details.[55] Finally, those and other publicity were translated into implementations, beginning in 1980 and then quickly multiplying throughout industry in the United States and other developed countries. A seminal 1980 event was a conference in Detroit at Ford World Headquarters co-sponsored by the Repetitive Manufacturing Group (RMG), which had been founded 1979 within the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) to seek advances in manufacturing. The principle speaker, Fujio Cho (later, president of Toyota Motor Corp.), in explaining the Toyota system, stirred up the audience, and led to the RMG's shifting gears from things like automation to JIT/TPS.[56]

At least some of audience's stirring had to do with a perceived clash between the new JIT regime and MRP II (material requirements planning II), a computer software-based system of manufacturing planning and control that had become prominent in industry in the 1960s and 1970s. Debates in professional meetings on JIT vs. MRP II were followed by published articles, one of them titled, "The Rise and Fall of Just-in-Time."[57] Less confrontational was Walt Goddard's, "Kanban Versus MRP II—Which Is Best for You?" in 1982.[58] Four years later Goddard had answered his own question with a book advocating JIT.[4] Among the best known of MRP II's advocates was George Plossl, who authored two articles questioning JIT's kanban planning method[59] and the "japanning of America."[60] But, as with Goddard, Plossl later wrote that "JIT is a concept whose time has come."[61]

JIT/TPS implementations may be found in many case-study articles from the 1980s and beyond. One article in a 1984 issue of Inc. magazine[62] relates how Omark Industries (chain saws, ammunition, log loaders, etc.) emerged as an extensive JIT implementer—under its home-grown name ZIPS (zero inventory production system). At Omark's mother plant in Portland, Oregon, after the work force had received 40 hours of ZIPS training, they were "turned loose" and things began to happen. A first step was to "arbitrarily eliminate a week's lead time [after which] things ran smoother. 'People asked that we try taking another week's worth out.' After that, ZIPS spread throughout the plant's operations 'like an amoeba.'" The article also notes that Omark's 20 other plants were similarly engaged in ZIPS, beginning with pilot projects. For example, at one of Omark's smaller plants making drill bits in Mesabi, Minn., "large-size drill inventory was cut by 92%, productivity increased by 30%, scrap and rework . . . dropped 20%, and lead time . . . from order to finished product was slashed from three weeks to three days." The Inc. article states that companies using JIT the most extensively include "the Big Four, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Westinghouse Electric, General Electric, Deere, and Black & Decker."

By 1986 a case-study book on JIT in the U.S.[8] was able to devote a full chapter to ZIPS at Omark, along with two chapters on JIT at several Hewlett-Packard plants, and single chapters for Harley-Davidson, John Deere, IBM-Raleigh, North Carolina, and California-based Apple Macintosh, a Toyota truck-bed plant, and New United Motor Manufacturing joint venture between Toyota and General Motors.

Two similarly inclined books emergent in the U.K. in the same years are more international in scope.[9] One of the books, with both conceptual articles and case studies, includes three sections on JIT practices: in Japan (e.g., at Toyota, Mazda, and Tokagawa Electric); in Europe (jmg Bostrom, Lucas Electric, Cummins Engine, IBM, 3M, Datasolve Ltd., Renault, Massey-Ferguson); and in the USA and Australia (Repco Manufacturing-Australia, Xerox Computer, and two on Hewlett-Packard). The second book, reporting on what was billed as the First International Conference on just-in-time manufacturing,[63] includes case studies in three companies: Repco-Australia, IBM-UK, and 3M-UK. In addition, a day-2 keynote discussed JIT as applied "across all disciplines, . . . from accounting and systems to design and production."[64]

Middle era and to the present[edit]

Three more books that include JIT implementations were published in 1993,[65] 1995,[11] and 1996,[66] which are start-up years of the lean manufacturing/lean management movement that was launched in 1990 with publication of the book, The Machine That Changed the World.[67] That one, along with other books, articles, and case studies on lean, were supplanting JIT terminology in the 1990s and beyond. The same period, however, saw the rise of books and articles with similar concepts and methodologies but with alternative names, including cycle time management,[32] time-based competition,[31] quick-response manufacturing,[68] flow,[69] and pull-based production systems.[70]

However, there is more to JIT than its usual manufacturing-centered explication. Inasmuch as manufacturing ends with order-fulfillment to distributors, retailers, and end users, and also includes remanufacturing, repair, and warranty claims, JIT's concepts and methods have application downstream from manufacturing itself. A 1993 book on "world-class distribution logistics" discusses kanban links from factories onward.[71] And a manufacturer-to-retailer model developed in the U.S. in the 1980s, referred to as quick response,[72] has morphed over time to what is called fast fashion.[73][74]

JIT implementation design[edit]

Based on a diagram modeled after the one used by Hewlett-Packard's Boise plant to accomplish its JIT program.

  1. F. Design Flow Process
    • F. Redesign/relayout for flow
    • L. Reduce lot sizes
    • O. Link operations
    • W. Balance workstation capacity
    • M. Preventive maintenance
    • S. Reduce setup Times
  2. Q. Total Quality Control
    • C. worker compliance
    • I. Automatic inspection
    • M. quality measures
    • M. fail-safe methods
    • W. Worker participation
  3. S. Stabilize Schedule
    • S. Level schedule
    • W. Establish freeze windows
    • UC. Underutilize Capacity
  4. K. Kanban Pull System
    • D. Demand pull
    • B. Backflush
    • L. Reduce lot sizes
  5. V. Work with Vendors
    • L. Reduce lead time
    • D. Frequent deliveries
    • U. Project usage requirements
    • Q. Quality expectations
  6. I. Further Reduce Inventory in Other Areas
    • S. Stores
    • T. Transit
    • C. Implement carrousel to reduce motion waste
    • C. Implement conveyor belts to reduce motion waste
  7. P. Improve Product Design
    • P. Standard production configuration
    • P. Standardize and reduce the number of parts
    • P. Process design with product design
    • Q. Quality expectations

Objectives and benefits[edit]

Objectives and benefits of JIT manufacturing may be stated in two primary ways: first, in specific and quantitative terms, via published case studies; second, general listings and discussion.

A case-study summary from Daman Products in 1999 lists the following benefits: reduced cycle times 97%, setup times 50%, lead times from 4 to 8 weeks to 5 to 10 days, flow distance 90%--achieved via four focused (cellular) factories, pull scheduling, kanban, visual management, and employee empowerment.[75]

Another study from NCR (Dundee Scotland) in 1998, a producer of make-to-order automated teller machines, includes some of the same benefits while also focusing on JIT purchasing: In switching to JIT over a weekend in 1998, eliminated buffer inventories, reducing inventory from 47 days to 5 days, flow time from 15 days to 2 days, with 60% of purchased parts arriving JIT and 77% going dock to line, and suppliers reduced from 480 to 165.[76]

Hewlett-Packard, one of western industry's earliest JIT implementers, provides a set of four case studies from four H-P divisions during the mid-1980s.[77] The four divisions, Greeley, Fort Collins, Computer Systems, and Vancouver, employed some but not all of the same measures. At the time about half of H-P's 52 divisions had adopted JIT.

Greeley Fort Collins Computer Systems Vancouver
Inventory reduction 2.8 months 75% 75%
Labor cost reduction 30% 15% 50%
Space reduction 50% 30% 33% 40%
WIP stock reduction 22 days to 1 day
Production increase 100%
Quality improvement 30% scrap, 79% rework 80% scrap 30% scrap & rework
Throughput time reduction 50% 17 days to 30 hours
Standard hours reduction 50%
No. of shipments increase 20%

Among general discussions of JIT's objectives and benefits is this from Malakooti[78]

  • Reduced setup time. Cutting setup time allows the company to reduce or eliminate inventory for "changeover" time. The tool used here is SMED (single-minute exchange of dies).
  • The flow of goods from warehouse to shelves improves. Small or individual piece lot sizes reduce lot delay inventories, which simplifies inventory flow and its management.
  • Employees with multiple skills are used more efficiently. Having employees trained to work on different parts of the process allows companies to move workers where they are needed.
  • Production scheduling and work hour consistency synchronized with demand. If there is no demand for a product at the time, it is not made. This saves the company money, either by not having to pay workers overtime or by having them focus on other work or participate in training.
  • Increased emphasis on supplier relationships. A company without inventory does not want a supply system problem that creates a part shortage. This makes supplier relationships extremely important.
  • Supplies come in at regular intervals throughout the production day. Supply is synchronized with production demand and the optimal amount of inventory is on hand at any time. When parts move directly from the truck to the point of assembly, the need for storage facilities is reduced.
  • Minimizes storage space needed.
  • Smaller chance of inventory breaking/expiring.
  • The author sums up with the comment, Waste elimination supports continuous quality and productivity improvement.

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ Shingo, Shigeo. 1985. A Revolution in Manufacturing: The SMED System. Stamford, Ct.: Productivity Press.
  3. ^ Hall, Robert W. 1983. Zero Inventories. Homewood, Ill., Dow Jones-Irwin.
  4. ^ a b Goddard, Walter E. 1986. Just-in-Time: Surviving by Breaking Tradition. Essex Junction, Vt." Oliver Wight Ltd.
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  7. ^ Hay, Edward J. 1988. The Just-in-Time Breakthrough: Implementing the New Manufacturing Basics. New York: Wiley.
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  21. ^ Monden, Yasuhiro, ed. 1986. Applying Just in Time: The American/Japanese Experience. Norcross, Ga.: Institute of Industrial Engineers. This collection of JIT articles includes multiple references to TPS.
  22. ^ Womack, J.P. and D. Jones. 2003. Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation. Revised. New York: Free Press. Numerous references to both lean and TPS.
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  77. ^ Simpson, Alex. Effective just-in-time manufacture at Hewlett-Packard. In Mortimer, J. op. cit., pp 123–128.
  78. ^ Malakooti, Behnam. 2013. Operations and Production Systems with Multiple Objectives. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Further reading[edit]

  • Schonberger, Richard J. 1982. Japanese Manufacturing Techniques: Nine Hidden Lessons in Simplicity. New York: Free Press.
  • Monden, Yasuhiro. 1982. Toyota Production System. Norcross, Ga: Institute of Industrial Engineers.
  • Lubben, R.T. 1988. Just-in-Time Manufacturing: An Aggressive Manufacturing Strategy. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Goldratt, Eliyahu M. and Fox, Robert E. (1986), The Race, North River Press, ISBN 0-88427-062-9
  • Management Coaching and Training Services, (2006). The Just-In-Time (JIT) Approach. Retrieved June 19, 2006 from the World Wide Web: [1]
  • Ohno, Taiichi (1988), Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production, Productivity Press, ISBN 0-915299-14-3
  • Ohno, Taiichi (1988), Just-In-Time for Today and Tomorrow, Productivity Press, ISBN 0-915299-20-8.
  • Suzaki, Kyoshi. 1993. The New Shop Floor Management: Empowering People for Continuous Improvement. New York: Free Press.
  • Wadell, William, and Bodek, Norman (2005), The Rebirth of American Industry, PCS Press, ISBN 0-9712436-3-8