Lean Manufacturing + Just-in-Time (JIT) Production

3 min read

Lean manufacturing just-in-time (JIT) production are two concepts that have quite a bit in common but are actually distinct strategies. Where JIT is focused on improving efficiency, lean looks to take using efficiency to help add additional value to the products that the customer is buying. When used together, these two strategies can provide many important benefits to a manufacturing facility. Learn more about what each of them are, and how they can be used in a facility to make measurable improvements.

Understanding Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is a popular production strategy that can track its history back to the 1930’s. The Toyota Motor Company began this process as part of their Toyota Production System. It wasn’t until 1988 when it began being called Lean, but the concepts have been there for decades. Lean manufacturing methods use five important principles, which are:

  • Specify Value – You need to understand what it is that your customers value. This means what is it that they will pay for.
  • Identify the Value Stream – Identify where and how value is added to the products or services you create. Any steps in the production process that don’t create value need to be eliminated.
  • Establish Flow – All value creating steps should flow in a specific sequence to ensure smooth production.
  • Pull Value – Products should be created as they are needed by the customers, not ahead of time. This principal is the one that has the most in common with just-in-time processing.
  • Strive for Perfection – Always be looking for ways that the manufacturing process can be improved. Eliminate waste, improve quality, provide more value. Continuous improvement is critical for long term success.

These five principals, when followed properly, will help a business to improve their manufacturing processes and maximize profitability today and long into the future.

Understanding Just-In-Time

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Just-in-time, or JIT, is an effort to bring costs down and increase efficiency. As with Lean, JIT was started by the Toyota Motor Company. In an optimal environment, this process will make it so a material that is needed for production will arrive at the exact moment when it is required for use. In reality, it is almost impossible to set up a perfect just-in-time system. Getting as close as possible to this, however, will provide many benefits to an organization.

Striving for just-in-time manufacturing will allow a company to reduce the amount of inventory for each material that they use. This is very important because keeping large amounts of inventory has many negative impacts, including:

  • Storage Space – A facility needs to store all of the different materials that they are keeping on hand. The more that needs to be on site, the bigger the area needs to be, which can get quite expensive.
  • Price Fluctuations – The price of various materials will change over time. If the price goes down significantly when you already have a large amount of it, you can take advantage of these price adjustments.
  • Loss of Materials – Storing materials on site often has some level of risk with it. The materials could be lost or stolen before they can be used. You need to take steps to protect them, which can be costly.
  • Damaged Materials – The longer you have materials in your facility, the greater the risk that they will get damaged. When they are in your facility, you are responsible for any damage that occurs.
  • Change in Design – If your customers begin to demand a change in design that no longer needs a particular material, you may be left holding these items with nothing to use them for.

Using Lean with JIT

Lean manufacturing and JIT are very complimentary with each other. Companies that work to implement both of these programs will find that they are able to get more benefits than either one can provide on its own. In most cases, it is also possible to implement both of these strategies at the same time. The amount of overlap between the programs will make it very efficient to provide training and education to the employees. The areas where there are differences do not involve contradictory actions or training, so they can be done together.

There are many programs and options available that will help companies to begin implementing Lean, just-in-time, or both. Taking the time to come up with the exact way that these programs should be used in your facility will help you to get the best possible results. While neither of these two methodologies can be implemented to perfection, both of them will help your company to make measurable improvements today and continue to push forward with further improvements long into the future.

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