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After an organization has stabilized and standardized the way it conducts business, it is time to implement the next phase of Lean: Just-in-Time (JIT).

It is a misconception that JIT’s only focus is on “producing the correct item at the right time for the exact quantity needed.” In all actuality, JIT serves a dual purpose. It allows for the occurrence of waste within the process to be seen visually as well.

When a JIT system is functioning in an environment of stability and standardization, it makes it easier to see when things are out of place or when problems arise. This visual trigger forces those to immediately take action to ensure efficiency and prosperity for the business.

When implementing JIT, organizations need to first look at several key elements in order for the system to be efficiently successful and function properly. First, companies need to evaluate its flow. A continuous flow using the pull system is ideal. Anything that disrupts that flow is considered waste; that waste must be dealt with immediately.

Traditionally, American organizations have had the philosophy of passing the buck or fixing things later, but in Lean thinking, this is not an option. Lean thinkers believe in addressing every situation as they happen in order to prevent future problems, even if the problem itself forces the shutdown of production. In fact, actually stopping production to fix a problem is highly encouraged.

Next, companies need to focus on the bottlenecks that seem to creep up around deadlines. It is important for them to look at ways to level out the flow of work so that important details are not being missed and such deadlines can be met.

Another name for this leveling out process is called heijunka. By applying this process, the work being pulled through will be given a chance to run its course more smoothly throughout, with the hopes of eliminating unnecessary errors which the overabundance amount of work coming in all at once can produce.

One great way to establish such a balanced workflow would be through the usage of a kanban  system. This visual tool is what makes the very process of JIT run smoothly. 

The kanban system is essentially made up of cards. These cards contain related information as to what is being manufactured or sold. A kanban card simply gives authorization to either produce more pieces or withdraw products. 

This visual management system allows those who practice JIT to stay true to the philosophy of producing only what is needed. An example of such system would be an in-house grocery store, where orders are only placed when items are no longer on the shelf.

The benefits of JIT include:

  • improves office communication
  • reduces queue times (or delays)
  • reduces transport and excessive motion
  • improves quality of work and productivity
  • assists in identifying problems early

Pawley Lean Institute

Pawley Hall, Room 460K
456 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-4542