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Just-in-Time (JIT) Manufacturing

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I am a trainer and consultant in Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, quality management, and business management.

JIT is one of the supporting Pillars of any lean Implementation

JIT is one of the supporting Pillars of any lean Implementation

What Is "Just in Time"?

Just-in-Time Manufacturing (JIT) is one of the main principles of lean manufacturing. It is the idea of producing exactly what the customer wants, in the quantities they want, where they want it, and when they want it without it being delayed or held up in inventory.

Just In Time (JIT) developed from the principles used first in Ford’s initial production lines, where they tried to use the “flow principle.” Toyota then refined this flow principle as they realized that the biggest wastes in manufacturing are overproduction and inventory: making what the customer wants too late or too early and making it in quantities the customer does not need.

In postwar Japan, to use any of the scarce resources for anything other than what you needed today was a very risky move! This article, “History of Lean Manufacturing,” will give you some insight into how these principles have developed.

JIT Removes Waste in Your Processes

Inventory that is created by overproduction is part of the Seven Wastes as defined within lean manufacturing. One of the major aims of implementing lean manufacturing is to reduce waste, although this should be done with an eye to creating flow within the organization. Flow that allows products to be manufactured at the pull of the customer is JIT.

Inventory is probably the biggest waste in lean manufacturing. The inventory in your system does more than just tie up your hard-earned cash; it hides all the other problems you have, like the water level in a river hides all of the rocks below.

JIT and the Toyota Production System

The Toyota Production System (TPS) is based on lean manufacturing, and JIT is one of the main pillars of TPS.

Along with Jidoka (Built in Quality) and respect for people, JIT forms Lean manufacturing. Built on a stable foundation of repeatable and predictable processes, these pillars help you achieve customer satisfaction and, thus, business success.

The Origins of JIT

Toyota management got the idea for JIT from, of all places, a supermarket they saw when they visited America. They observed that a supermarket only had to restock shelves with what the customers were actually taking; they did not keep ordering the same quantities each week and had some shelves overflowing and others empty. Each shelf had a fixed quantity of products from which the customers would select, and this would then be replenished at the end of each day.

Many JIT and Kanban systems are very much based around the supermarket principle; the customer is supplied from a finished goods supermarket, and the factory then works to restock that supermarket. Care is taken to maintain the stock levels within the supermarket to the minimum levels.

Together with Jidoka and Respect for People, JIT is one of the main pillars of Lean and the TPS, without which Lean would fail.

JIT gets you paid quicker

JIT gets you paid quicker

The Order to Cash Timeline

One of the biggest problems that many businesses face is cash flow. If they have to wait for their customers to pay, they then do not have the cash to pay for their suppliers to build more products. Many companies have to spend a huge amount of their time balancing their cash flow and their production because of this.

Implementing JIT does not just reduce your lead times; it also reduces the time between your getting the order and the cash actually getting into your hands. This is vital if you want to reinvest that cash back into your business to satisfy more customers.

Traditional Manufacturing

Traditional manufacturing drives the creation of inventory through the waste of overproduction; we run large batches of material on our machines before the customer wants it or in quantities in excess of what the customer wants.


"Because we have always done it this way" is one simple answer. Typically the main reason is due to the setup time of the machine. To ensure that we get the best efficiency out of the machine, we try to run an economical batch size.

We also produce "Just in Case": we guess (forecast) what the customer will want rather than basing our production on what they actually order.

Improvements in Production Planning

Large batches also cause problems with planning. Different batches of materials have to be coordinated to be produced at around the same time. This causes problems as things get out of synchronization, and we end up with delays with large amounts of work in progress sitting there waiting for other components to be processed.

We also plan to have large amounts of inventory; we plan delays between processes to allow a “cushion” or “safety” stock to build just in case there are problems between these processes. This allows each process to have other work to the process should there be problems with quality, delivery, breakdowns or any other problem, the planners feel more secure that the processes will not be stopped.

One of the main aims of lean manufacturing is to remove waste, especially the waste of inventory; this is the main waste that is tackled when implementing JIT as one of the principles of lean manufacturing.

Just-in-Time (JIT) manufacturing reduces inventory.

Just-in-Time (JIT) manufacturing reduces inventory.

Inventory Reduction

The most obvious problem with inventory is the need for space. Large amounts of inventory require large amounts of space to store it, either on the shop floor as work in progress or within the stores as finished goods or raw materials. The physical space and the containers are all a cost to our business. Just in Time (JIT) looks to free up this space by eliminating this excessive inventory.

Inventory also needs to be moved around: extra inventory incurs the added cost of people and equipment to do this moving, as well as the opportunity for damage.

The most direct impact that inventory has on our customers has to do with our lead times. These large batches and planning delays tend to ensure that our lead times are measured in weeks rather than days. Producing a value stream map of your business can demonstrate the effect of inventory on your lead times and show the level of improvement that you could gain through implementing Just-in-Time.


To implement Just In Time, the first thing we need to do is lower inventory levels. To do this, we have to tackle several issues. The first to tackle is almost always the issue of setup times. In most companies, the size of the batch is driven by the time taken to set up the machines, often many hours to change from one production item to the next. This time has to be paid for, so it is allowed for within the cost, and an economical batch quantity is defined: normally a few weeks' worths of production or more, depending on the industry.

The way to tackle setups is to use a lean manufacturing tool called SMED, Single Minute Exchange of Die. The aim of SMED is exactly what it says; it tries to reduce setups to single minutes or seconds. It achieves this by eliminating all of the obvious waste in the setup and separating the "internal" and "external" factors of the setup; the aim is to have as much work done for the setup whilst the machine is still running so that the downtime is minimized.

Once setups can be reduced to this level, the size of the batch can be reduced. This gives the opportunity to bring operations closer together and enable materials to flow between them. This reduces the need for transportation and excessive amounts of space. The reduction in batch sizes immediately reduces your lead times as each batch will take less time to be processed before you see the finished product.

Beyond this, we start to look at developing cells and flow lines, then introduce a pull system through Kanban. We can also look at smaller dedicated machines for these cells and lines instead of some of the larger "super" machines that some companies employ to do every product in the factory.

Lowering the level of inventory is like lowering the sea level; each time it gets lower, we run the risk of hitting some rocks. We have to either predict which rocks we are going to hit and deal with them or lower the level of inventory and react quickly to the problem that occurs!

One Piece Flow

Just in Time (JIT) Inventory Reduction

Just in Time (JIT) Inventory Reduction

Just In Time (JIT) Single piece flow

Just In Time (JIT) Single piece flow

JIT Just in Time Close coupled Operations

JIT Just in Time Close coupled Operations

The Benefits

The benefits of Implementing Just In Time, creating “single piece” flow at the pull of the customer using a flow line approach:

  • Reduced cash tied up in inventory.
  • Reduced space required.
  • Reduced requirements for transportation and associated people and equipment.
  • Reduced lead times.
  • Reduced planning complexity.
  • Problems seen sooner and reacted to, not hidden by the inventory sea!

The benefits of lean manufacturing implementation can be very significant, normally far in excess of what most people believe possible. Implementing the principles of Just In Time manufacturing along with the other main principles of Lean Manufacturing (Respect and involving all of your employees in a continual improvement drive towards perfection) will help your business not just to survive, but to flourish! It will help you to reduce costs and improve profits significantly.

Just in Time (JIT) Lean Principles

Just in Time (JIT) Lean Principles

Lean Tools for Just in Time

The other lean principles relevant to implementing Just in Time manufacturing are detailed below with links to the relevant lean manufacturing tools to give you additional information on their implementation.

The reason for implementing Just in Time is not just to eliminate the obvious waste or muda as described by the Seven Wastes but also to reduce the less known wastes of Mura - unevenness - and Muri - overburden. Muri and Mura describe the problems created by production demand that varies excessively, causing an overburden on the operators in the system.

These problems can be tackled by implementing Just in Time principles such as Heijunka, heijunka is the process of smoothing production for JIT using tools such as the heijunka board for JIT. Work cells can also be balanced to help you to achieve Takt time by using tools such as the Yamazumi chart.

The batch size reductions required to enable Just in Time and Heijunka are achieved through the use of SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die) to reduce change over and setup times to a fraction of the current times. We also need to improve our machine reliability through the use of TPM (total productive maintenance) and performance measurements such as OEE.

Once we have smaller batches, we can work on the layout to give us flow and pull production through our manufacturing systems using Kanban to drive our JIT system.

All of these improvements at the Gemba (workplace) can be built on through the use of Kaizen's continuous improvement principles.

The following are useful links for business support and lean manufacturing resources.

Institute for Manufacturing

Chartered Quality Institute

American Quality Society

National Association of Manufacturers

International Trade Administration USA

Toyota Lean Manufacturing and TPS

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders

Automotive Industry Action Group

These links will help you to find more information regarding Just in Time manufacturing (JIT) and lean manufacturing.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Krar on May 19, 2017:

Great topic

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on November 26, 2011:

amzsal89, the ideas behind just in time (JIT) are that the company is able to produce exactly what the customer wants, where they want it, when they want it with the minimum of waste. If you are able to implement JIT then you will be able to provide your customer with the best possible service whilst keeping your costs as low as possible maximizing your profits.

Read some of my other articles on Lean manufacturing using the links available through my profile page (top right.)

amzsal89 on November 26, 2011:

how is JIT useful to managers?Im new to all this sorry

Lorenzo on May 23, 2011:

This article is great Leanman, now I understand a lot of things more about JIT!

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on April 14, 2011:

You could introduce most aspects of Just in Time (JIT) and Lean Manufacturing within an office environment. If you would like some help in this respect feel free to contact me using the link above or through another comment.

Fosamax Femur Lawyer on April 14, 2011:

Hope I can have the system in my office. Congrats Leanman..

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on May 27, 2010:

Thanks for your comments, I hope that more companies out there try to implement JIT as part of lean manufacturing. If we can get our companies more competitive then we can keep production and jobs here rather than keep outsourcing things to China and India and so on..

John Yater from Hamilton, Ohio on May 26, 2010:

LeanMan, Very insiteful hub. A good description of JIT and its benefits...

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on May 17, 2010:

Thanks for the comments, I am glad that you liked my hub. Hope to be here for a long time to come, I can feel many hubs itching to escape from my keyboard...

OregonWino on April 25, 2010:

Great stuff man!! This is a fantastic hub!! Keep up the great work and welcome to the community!!