Just-In-Time Manufacturing & Production (JIT): A Quick Guide


A key goal in manufacturing is to get products to market faster while keeping costs down. That’s why many manufacturing companies embrace just-in-time manufacturing.

Just-in-time manufacturing is popular for a reason. It helps manufacturers reduce flow times in their production systems response times from suppliers to customers. It’s a no-brainer, but is your organization set up to take advantage of it?

What Is Just-In-Time Manufacturing (JIT)?

Just-in-time manufacturing is a method of maximizing your inventory system’s efficiency by keeping material orders aligned with production schedules. This produces less waste and reduces inventory costs, as you only use what you need in the production process. In order for JIT to succeed, producers must be able to accurately forecast demand for their products.

At the heart of just-in-time manufacturing and production is eliminating waste. There are various types of waste:

  • Waste from overproduction
  • Wasting time
  • Transportation waste
  • Processing waste
  • Inventory level waste
  • Waste in motion
  • Waste from product defects

JIT is about continuous improvement and addressing anything that doesn’t add value to the project. Therefore, you need to put systems in place to capture these problems so you can resolve them quickly. Each worker is responsible for the quality of their output and preventative maintenance keeps machinery and equipment functioning at its best.

When creating and managing a production schedule, manufacturing teams often use kanban boards. This process requires steady production at a high level of quality workmanship while avoiding the breakdown of machinery.

A kanban board is a visual workflow tool that is part of the hybrid work management software ProjectManager. You can use ProjectManager’s kanban board to create custom workflows and set tasks and approvals. This gives you control over who can move a task to done and who can approve moving a task from one column to the next. This is all done in real time to keep production moving forward quickly. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

ProjectManager's kanban board
ProjectManager’s kanban board has workflows and task approvals for better control. Learn More!

Origins of JIT Manufacturing

No one can pinpoint the exact date that just-in-time manufacturing began, but it clearly rose out of post-World War II Japan. The war left Japan without the working capital to finance big-batch, large inventory production methods that were the norm in other developed nations.

Without that kind of cash flow, only a lean manufacturing methodology could allow Japan to stay competitive. Therefore, they built smaller factories and kept the focus on small batches of raw materials to produce small products. This lets manufacturers reduce their exposure to financial risk while slowly building their working capital to sustainable levels.

How Does JIT Manufacturing Work?

For just-in-time manufacturing to work manufacturers must have a suitable product or service, specific quantity and an agreed-upon timeframe. There must also be a strong relationship with suppliers. If you’re looking to implement a JIT manufacturing process, follow these steps.

Build Trust With Suppliers

While larger companies have a competitive edge over smaller ones in terms of working out beneficial relationships with suppliers, a strong supplier relationship is crucial for JIT to work. Inventory turnover must be precise. Any disruption in the supply chain can be harmful to just-in-time manufacturing. Develop good relationships with your suppliers, build trust and, if possible, choose to work with suppliers that are physically close to your facility. It should all be part of your supply chain management.

Strong Communication

Manufacturers need to strengthen their internal communications. Without clear channels of communication between departments, work will never proceed as efficiently as possible. Poor communication impacts production slows it down, creates inaccuracies in data and reduces profitability. Therefore, customer orders need to reach the planning department when sales inputs the order, which means you need one source of truth that informs all departments of your company at the same time.

Work in Small Lots

There are many advantages to working in smaller lots, including better quality, reduced inventory and reduced storage costs. In terms of JIT, smaller lots mean you’re only using what you need and nothing has to be stocked. This type of inventory management system is critical to success.

Efficient Workflows

Using more efficient workflows is part of having a better planned-out facility that can handle your production flow. This can be accomplished through work management software and custom workflows that help with time management. This reduces setup time and change over time, streamlining the movement of materials on your production floor.

Backward Scheduling

Backward scheduling is when you complete your production orders and promptly deliver them at your clients’ request. Your production schedule is down to the last minute, including ordering raw materials needed to make your product. This is the heart of just-in-time manufacturing and production, keeping the production line lean, with no fat. One way is with a pull system to make only enough products for the customer demand.

Benefits of Just-In-Time Manufacturing

Using JTI manufacturing is part of lean management and can dramatically impact your productivity and profitability if applied correctly. There are many benefits to adopting this process:

  • Cuts down on JIT inventory through inventory control, as you no longer need to take up storage space for materials that are not in use or about to be placed in production, which opens up more factory space for projection and is more profitable than warehouse space.
  • Cuts labor costs as there is less downtime when your crew is idle.
  • Reduces the space in which you produce your product because you’re using that space more efficiently, which can help save on rent.
  • Reduces work-in-process (WIP), which maximizes value for the customer and eliminates waste.
  • Increases the amount of product you can make in your production cycle.
  • Improves the quality of your end-product by reducing the rate of defects on the assembly line as part of your total quality management.
  • Reduces lead time and throughput time (time to convert raw materials to completed units).
  • Cuts standard hours (amount of work done in an hour).
  • Increases the number of shipments.

That doesn’t mean that just-in-time production is without risks. Some risks that manufacturers have experienced using JIT is with their supply chain. As mentioned above, a nearby supplier can shorten the time it takes to deliver the raw materials you need, but sometimes external forces will interrupt your process. Big companies have more leverage in situations like these.

How ProjectManager Helps With JIT Manufacturing

ProjectManager is cloud-based work management software for hybrid teams that acts as a single source of truth to keep everyone working more productively. Real-time data is ideal for JIT manufacturing because it keeps your crew working at capacity and moving forward without interruption.

Create Just-in-Time Manufacturing Processes on Kanban Boards

You’ve seen the kanban board project view with its custom workflows and task approvals, which can set limitations on what can be approved and who can move a kanban card to the next column, but that’s only one of five project views. While kanban is the preferred tool for just-in-time manufacturing, other departments might have more traditional work styles. For them, there are Gantt charts, sheet view, task lists and calendars. Whatever project view you work, it’s kept up-to-date with the rest of your team.

ProjectManager Gantt chart

Communicate with Different Departments Seamlessly

Communication is key, and ProjectManager gives you live data for more insightful decisions. Use the dashboard for a status report whenever you want one. Unlike other tools, there’s no setup necessary. It’s ready to work when you are, automatically collecting real-time data, making the calculations and then displaying it in easy-to-read graphs and charts.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

Generate Reports in Seconds

To keep your stakeholders updated and get even deeper into the data, there are one-click reports on task progress, workload, timesheets and more. You can filter each report to show only what you need to see, then save them as a PDF or print it out for your stakeholders.

ProjectManager's status report

ProjectManager is a collaborative platform that connects everyone in your company no matter where they are or how they work. Get email notifications and in-app alerts to always be updated on status and comments. Resource management tools help you continuously improve the process to get more efficient in your production process.

ProjectManager is award-winning software that delivers hybrid work management solutions to industries from IT to manufacturing and professional services. Join the over 35,000 professionals at NASA, Siemens, Nestles and other companies using our software to gain efficiency in their processes. Get started with ProjectManager today for free!

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