Unfolding Just In Time in the Western World

Logistics expert David Kiger has already addressed the Just In Time inventory strategy. However, in spite of being pretty much self-explanatory, the scope of this methodology spans over a vast majority of aspects commonly related to the logistics and management departments in a company. The system started off as the main production system used by Toyota back in 1976. The executives at the company came up with such methodology as a response to the economic downturn —caused primarily by the aftermath of the Second World War—, and as a way to improve their manufacturing processes.

By studying this Japanese philosophy, 14 main working points can be found, seven of which are directly related to the human factor and the remaining seven to the technical specs. It is important to mention that often times, for philosophies that were conceived in the eastern world to be implemented in the western world, it is necessary to assess thoroughly whether it is possible or not, or simply carry out an assessment in hopes to determine to what extent such methodology can be tailored to the western world way of thinking. It can be deceptive sometimes, but there is definitely a huge difference between how both worlds conceive the same topic, therefore, it is not rare to come across many companies that have failed at implementing this and other eastern world philosophies or methodologies. Under this framework, and after thorough consideration, seven out of the 14 main principles or working points have proven to be successful after their implementation in western corporations; these seven are most appropriate for implementing in today’s western juncture, given the difference between noticeable nuances regarding the same issues.

In the western world, rather than a philosophy, Just in Time is a way of working in which raw materials and products arrive Just in Time, either at the factory or at customer and consumer service. This methodology bases its principles primarily upon: reduction of waste, product and service quality, loyalty (understood as the commitment of the employees), higher productivity rates, lower costs, higher customer satisfaction, higher sales figures as well as higher profits. Amongst its applications, the philosophy stresses the importance of sparing no effort to: reduce inventory, improve product quality and make both services and products reliable.

As mentioned above, Just in Time also focuses on the human factor, and that is why it recommends leveraging the existent personnel, as well as tailoring a company’s production line to the real demand so that it can achieve real results. Nevertheless, there seems to be a somewhat sheer array of issues that prevent the philosophy from being harnessed in its entirely, since, given the fact that the scope of Just in Time (JIT) spans over a vast number of crucial functional of a company, the extent to which its implementation will result successful depends on the almost unlimited support of the company’s executives. Given the fact that the eastern cultures are known for embracing change much easier than the western world, the issue of total acceptance and commitment towards a change in the current system becomes vital. Many cases have depicted that this factor has played a major role in the achievement of both long term and entire implementation of Just in Time. As mentioned above, it is mandatory to empower all employees so they can overcome the (sometimes inevitable) drawbacks during its implementation. Nevertheless, aside from the cultural differences, Just in Time implementation is also subject to the company’s size; especially for small and medium organizations, the management ought to pay special attention to its support during a JIT implementation and, moreover, convey such support to the middle management and the owners so they can understand that implementing Just in Time demands a new way of thinking —and a new way of managing— and a new attitude towards daily operations.

Image courtesy of Speaker John Boehner at Flickr.com

Such change has proven to be difficult. Moreover, plenty of companies and organizations have failed at implementing the Just in Time methodology because they have completely disregarded and underestimated the nuances. Implementing JIT in small organizations is really a daunting task, but mostly because of reasons of size, as they normally have one or two managers who are responsible for taking care of almost all daily activities, and are too busy to look after the implementation of a change in their current methodology. Small companies may not have the luxury of taking time for the whole operation, or even to consider new ways of enhancing their current status; normally, small organizations merely have time just to adapt changes as time passes by, wherever they can. Thusly, given the fact that without a deep understanding of the Just in Time philosophy the likelihood of it being successfully implemented systematically plummets; for it to be successfully implemented, a strong commitment from top managers on such change is mandatory, otherwise, it will never reach its fullest potential.


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