One of the buzzwords in manufacturing these days is “lean.” Lean manufacturing entails, at its heart, cutting out waste and increasing efficiency. Businesses work to increase yields and throughput, and cut down on scrap and excess inventory. Many of the businesses we work with employ lean manufacturing principles, either formally or informally.

At the same time, many of these same businesses offer just-in-time (JIT) delivery to their customers. JIT delivery is one of those principles that sounds wonderful on paper—parts delivered exactly when you need them so you’re not sitting on excess inventory. Back in the heyday of the Toyota Production System (TPS), JIT was easier to implement. Toyota were the masters of their production, and had their production schedule down pat. If they wanted to manufacture 300,000 gold four dour Camrys per year, they would need to build 6,000 per week, which would mean 1,200 per day. And they would hit those numbers. So they knew exactly how much of every part and every material they needed, and when they would need it. The TPS worked so well that Toyota sent teams out to teach it at to manufacturing facilities.

Today the Camry comes with a slew of options, both internal and external. As a result, the parts and supplies they’ll need can’t be as meticulously laid out, and this is true of most manufacturing efforts. But manufacturers still want parts delivered JIT, and they look for suppliers who will do that. The fact that JIT delivery isn’t as simple as it once was doesn’t make it any less attractive. What this means is that in reality, to make JIT delivery work, someone in the supply chain is sitting on inventory. In the case of our customers, that’s us. We stock excess parts, so that they can offer JIT delivery to their customers while at the same time fulfilling their own lean initiatives. This is just one of the ways that UP&R helps our customers stay competitive.

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