How to Integrate JIT and Kanban

Just in time (JIT) manufacturing is inventory strategy aimed at reducing flow times within production systems, as well as response times from suppliers and to customers. Using JIT manufacturing helps organizations control variability in their processes, allowing them to increase productivity while lowering costs. JIT manufacturing is very similar to Lean manufacturing, and the terms are often used synonymously.

Kanban is a workflow methodology that can help organizations implement and scale JIT manufacturing. Read to learn how to integrate JIT and Kanban into a productive, efficient, ever-evolving JIT Kanban system.

What is JIT?

Companies employ JIT to increase efficiency and decrease waste by receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process, thereby reducing inventory costs. This method requires producers to forecast demand accurately, but has many benefits in terms of reducing risk and costs associated with manufacturing.

This inventory supply system represents a shift away from the older just-in-case strategy, in which producers produced and maintained large inventories in case higher demand had to be met.

When done well, adopting a JIT manufacturing system can have a drastic impact on an organization’s productivity, risk management, and operating costs. Here are just a few of the quantitative benefits experienced by manufacturers worldwide:

  • Reduction in inventory
  • Reduction in labor costs
  • Reduction in space needed to operate
  • Reduction in WIP (work in process)
  • Increase in production
  • Improvements in product quality (lower rates of defects)
  • Reduction of throughput time
  • Reduction of standard hours
  • Increase in number of shipments

What is Kanban?

Kanban is Japanese for “visual signal” or “card.” Toyota line-workers used a kanban (i.e., an actual card) to signal steps in their manufacturing process. The system’s highly visual nature allowed teams to communicate more easily on what work needed to be done and when. It also standardized cues and refined processes, which helped to reduce waste and maximize value.

Today, Kanban is used in all disciplines - not just manufacturing of physical goods - to help knowledge workers actively manage and optimize how work moves through their process.

Kanban helps you harness the power of visual information by using sticky notes on a whiteboard to create a “picture” of your work. Seeing how your work flows within your team’s process lets you not only communicate status, but also give and receive context for the work. In manufacturing, it is also used to manage inventory and demand requirement processes.

Most modern manufacturers choose to use digital Kanban boards (rather than their physical whiteboard predecessors) to practice Kanban or implement a JIT Kanban system.

Integrating JIT and Kanban

What does any of this have to do with JIT manufacturing?

Kanban can help organizations control the rate of production by ensuring that materials are received only when required - when they are demanded by the customer. Kanban allows manufacturers to visualize - and therefore more effectively manage - how inventory flows through their systems.

Kanban is not an inventory control system by itself. Rather, it is a scheduling system that tells a company what to produce, when to produce it, and how much to produce. Kanban cards play an important role in the implementation of JIT by serving as visual aids that trigger action. It is its very nature that makes it a suitable element in implementing JIT. Kanban is used as an indicator of demand that it immediately signals to the whole of the supply chain.

Integrating JIT and Kanban helps organizations reduce risk by fine-tuning inventory demand and requirement processes. Using a hybrid JIT Kanban system can help manufacturers maintain greater control over their inventory, while improving operational efficiency and productivity.

Learn more about Kanban and Lean in manufacturing by visiting our Learning Center.

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