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Supply Chain Planning. Explanation of Just-in-time philosophy of Taiichi Ohno. ('70)




What is Just-in-Time? Definition

Just-in-time was pioneered by Taiichi Ohno in Japan at the Toyota car assembly plants in the early 1970s. It is a manufacturing organization philosophy.  JIT decreases waste by supplying parts only when the assembly process requires them. At the heart of JIT lies the kanban, the Japanese word for card. This kanban card is sent to the warehouse to request a standard quantity of parts as and when they have been used up in the assembly/manufacturing process. JIT requires precision, as the right parts must arrive "just-in-time" at the right position (work station at the assembly line). It is used primarily for high-volume repetitive flow manufacturing processes.

History of Just-in-Time

Historically, the JIT philosophy arose out of two other things:

  1. Japan's wish to improve its production quality. At that time, Japanese companies had a bad reputation as far as quality of manufacturing and car manufacturing in particular was concerned.
  2. Kaizen, also a Japanese method of continuous improvement.

The Just-in-time framework regards inventories as a poor excuse for bad planning, inflexibility, wrong machinery, quality problems, etc. The target of JIT is to speed up customer response while minimizing inventories at the same time. Inventories help to respond quickly to changing customer demands, but inevitably cost money and increase the needed working capital.

In 1990 James Womack wrote a book called "The Machine That Changed The World", introducing the terminology 'Lean Manufacturing'. Also you may encounter the word: 'Lean Production'. The principles behind these approaches do not substantially differ from the techniques developed by Ohno at Toyota.

Attention Areas of Just-in-Time

Typical attention areas of JIT implementations include:

  • Inventory reduction.
  • Smaller production lots and batch sizes.
  • Quality control.
  • Complexity reduction and transparency.
  • Flat organization structure and delegation.
  • Waste minimization.

External extended Just-in-Time

Through the arrival of Internet and Supply Chain Planning software, companies have in the mean time extended Just-in-time manufacturing to outside the company borders. By demanding from their suppliers to deliver inventory to the factory only when it's needed for assembly, making JIT manufacturing, ordering and delivery processes even speedier, more flexible and more efficient. In this way, Integrated Supply Networks (Demand Networks) or Electronic Supply Chains are being formed.

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