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, which is why many manufacturing companies embrace just-in-time manufacturing (JIT). JIT helps manufacturers streamline production planning, reduce their production costs and improve their lead time. 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 production planning system that aligns material orders with production schedules so raw materials only arrive as they are needed for the manufacturing process. This produces less waste, controls production inventory levels and reduces inventory costs, as you only use what’s needed in the production process.

ProjectManager is project management software equipped with the right tools for JIT manufacturing. You can use ProjectManager’s kanban boards to create automated workflows and set task approvals, map out production plans on Gantt charts and track progress with real-time dashboards. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

ProjectManager’s kanban boards, Gantt charts & workflow automation features benefit lean manufacturing processes. Learn more

How Does Just-in-Time Manufacturing Work?

Like kanban or lean manufacturing, JIT also focuses on continuous improvement and eliminating waste. Therefore, you need to put production control 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 their best.

When creating and managing a production schedule, manufacturing teams often use kanban boards and other project management tools to create a just-in-time manufacturing system.

How to Implement a Just-In-Time Manufacturing System

A just-in-time inventory system is simply a set of tools and techniques that allows managers to keep track of their production inventory as well as the tasks in their manufacturing process so they can understand exactly when raw materials are needed. You can create a just-in-time manufacturing system by using kanban boards and other project management tools. Kanban boards let you map out tasks, limit work in progress, attach material requirement planning information and create workflows.

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Kanban Card Template

Use this free Kanban Card Template for Excel to manage your projects better.


What Should You Consider When Implementing Just-In-Time Manufacturing?

Before you create a JIT system to implement just-in-time manufacturing in your organization, it’s important to have a solid understanding of other aspects of your business, including:

  • Demand Forecasts: As a manufacturer, you must create accurate demand forecasts for your product, so you have an idea of what your material requirements are for the future.
  • Capacity Planning: Capacity planning consists of determining whether your production capacity meets your product demand. It’s important to establish whether your production capacity is enough or not before implementing JIT for your manufacturing process.
  • Capacity Utilization: To ensure you get raw materials right when you need them, you’ll need to know your team’s workload, what equipment is available and other capacity utilization details.
  • Waste: Just-in-time manufacturing focuses on eliminating waste, which is defined as anything that doesn’t add value to customers in lean manufacturing.
  • Supply Chain: Your supply chain is made up of all the processes that are needed for the production and distribution of products. It’s important to build a positive relationship with your raw material suppliers and use efficient transportation methods before implementing just-in-time manufacturing.
  • Lead time: The lead time is the time between the start and end of a production process. Knowing your lead time gives you a better view when estimating when materials are needed.

History of JIT Manufacturing

No one can pinpoint the exact date that just-in-time manufacturing began, but it stemmed from post-World War II Japan. The war left Japan without the working capital to finance big-batch 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 focused on small batches of raw materials to produce small products. This allowed manufacturers reduce their exposure to financial risk while slowly building their working capital to sustainable levels.

JIT Manufacturing vs. Lean Manufacturing

The main difference between just-in-time manufacturing and lean manufacturing is that JIT has a much narrower scope. JIT focuses solely on estimating raw material requirements and aligning production inventories with production schedules. On the other hand, lean manufacturing is a more thorough process that strives to improve the overall efficiency of your manufacturing business through continuous improvement, waste reduction and business process improvement.

Benefits of Just-In-Time Manufacturing

Using JIT manufacturing as part of lean management 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 aren’t in use or about to be placed in production.
  • Cuts labor costs as there’s 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 manufacturing 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, or the time to convert raw materials to completed units.
  • Cuts standard hours, or the amount of work done in an hour.
  • Increases the number of shipments.

Disadvantages of Just-In-Time Manufacturing

While just-in-time manufacturing can be very beneficial, that doesn’t mean that JIT is without risks. In fact, it can greatly affect your production plan or production schedule if not done right.

First, just-in-time manufacturing relies on the accuracy of your material requirement estimates, which means that if you fail to estimate anything such as the quantity of raw material that’ll be needed, there won’t be time to react since inputs are ordered on demand.

In addition, you have no control over your suppliers or any issues they might be having. This means that even if you accurately estimate your material requirements, your suppliers can always fail to deliver and delay your production schedule.

Kanban Card Template

This free kanban card template can help you implement just-in-time manufacturing by managing your inventory using a kanban system that focuses on only ordering production inventory items when they’re needed to maintain optimum inventory levels, optimize the use of warehouse space and minimize production costs.

kanban card template

Just-In-Time Manufacturing Best Practices

For just-in-time manufacturing to work, manufacturers must have a suitable product or service, a 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.

Establish 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.

Related: 10 Free Manufacturing Templates for Excel

Work in Small Lots

There are many advantages to working in smaller lots, including better quality, reduced equipment 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.

Build 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 by using work management software that helps with time management. This reduces setup time and changes over time, streamlining the movement of materials on your production floor.

Implement Backward Scheduling

Backward scheduling is when you complete your production orders and promptly deliver them at your client’s 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.

Screenshot of the 2024 manufacturing ebook by ProjectManager

How ProjectManager Helps With JIT Manufacturing

ProjectManager is online work management software 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 the 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 views, task lists and calendars. Whatever project view you prefer, it’s kept up-to-date with the rest of your team.

Manufacturing kanban board in ProjectManager

Communicate With Different Departments Seamlessly

Communication is key, and ProjectManager gives you live data for more insightful decisions. Use the dashboard for timely status reports. 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 stay updated on status and comments. Resource management tools help you continuously improve the process to get more efficient in your production process.

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