How to bust 5 Just-in-time production myths

A warehouse full of merchandise which isn’t moving.  Raw materials being lost because there’s no demand to manufacture a product.  A considerable and constant dip in profits due to low sales figures.  These are all things that lead companies to consider the effectiveness of their current production strategy and if it needs changes or replacement.  Often times, the answer will end up being the latter.  A quick look online to the latest and most successful manufacturing methods will most likely show results for Just-in-time production or Just-in-time manufacturing.  They’re both the same.  After reading through many articles and asking around the Supply Chain Manager comes to the realization that JIT is the way to go.  There seem to be mostly positives and few drawbacks.  While this is true, those negative aspects of JIT manufacturing could lead to a company’s demise if not handled correctly.  Time to shed some light on the negativity surrounding JIT.

  1.    “There is no way we’ll meet production schedules”

This is one of the main misconceptions of Just-in-time manufacturing.  Many people believe that by only using what is needed there will be a shortage in raw materials to make a product.  When we only focus on how long it really takes to put a product together, it’s easy to see that the time is relatively short.  JIT makes sure that the material department works as fast as possible to deliver supplies to the production department.  One of the beauties of JIT is how easy it makes it to hold people accountable for a setback in a process.  No one wants the finger pointed at them when things get delayed.

By implanting JIT production a company understands that time is of the essence.  The longer it takes to manufacture a product the longer it will take to make money.  It’s that simple really.  It’s no longer Marketing’s job to sell the product.  Everyone in the process now has a vital role in creating and fulfilling demand.

  1.    “The suppliers won’t go for it”

Another qualm related to JIT.  Convincing suppliers to deliver raw materials in smaller quantities could be challenging but very doable.  Every company can usually forecast the minimum amount of products they will sell and thus they can tell how much raw material is needed to fulfill this minimum demand.  As suppliers get on board with this “as-needed” delivery process, they will notice more repetitive business instead of a once in awhile order.  Once again, accountability comes into play.

Small quantities of parts and raw materials implies only buying from those who can offer the best quality.  Suppliers will make sure that what is delivered fulfills the highest quality standards as possible.  They will understand that by not ensuring quality they might be sacrificing future and surely long-term business.

  1.    “We don’t have the software to get into JIT”

Change is usually not taken well in any setting.  When it comes to software, it can get even more difficult trying to get across the benefits of changing the existing platform.  The software that will be used to handle JIT production has to be thought out carefully and without rush while correcting any bugs during operation.  While the system is being designed, implemented, stabilized a company can go back to some good ole fashioned manual labor.  Companies can have forms or spreadsheets set up to register the information on a finished batch basis.  This will get them used to working in a JIT system. When the form is complete, the one large batch can be introduced into the traditional system.  As this method goes on, it should evolve into what the final system will do.  Since employees have had experience working indirectly on the new system, the transition to the software should not be very difficult.

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Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture at Flickr.com
  1.    “It will mess with our inventory system”

This is just bologna. One of the most important advantages of any JIT production system is that it makes inventory control a lot easier and more manageable.  The inventory process is basically reduced to two things: completed production and raw material.  That’s it.  What comes in, goes out.  No more need of conducting inventory in huge warehouses on a regular basis to see which products can stay, which need to go, and which have become obsolete.

  1.    “The workforce has no time to learn a new system”

Moving over to a Just-in-time production strategy involves huge and sometimes radical changes in organizational culture.  However, is also comes with the reduction or even elimination of many time-demanding tasks (inventory control, production times, etcetera).  The workforce needs to be given time and training to adapt to the new system.  Having knowledge of how to work with a JIT system makes it easier to accept and implement.  Companies need to set up seminars, conferences, tutorials.  Bringing in experts that can solve concrete doubts is another way to train workers.

One final note on Just-in-time production.  It’s not an overnight thing.  Employees at all levels need to trust the process and understand that it will take some time to get used to the change, but it will ultimately pay off.

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