The “Just-in-Time” methodology has been applied to manufacturing processes for decades but market globalisation, the increase in competitiveness and the boom in electronic commerce have made it necessary for the JIT methods to be adpted adapt to the logistics along the whole supply chain.
In this article we will explain what Just-in-Time (JIT) is, its origin, the philosophy it is based on, why it is being applied to the logistics in modern supply chains and how the use of automated storage systems favours its adoption.
The origin of the Just-in-Time system
During the 50s and most part of the 60s and 70s, Japan was developing and perfecting production systems which allowed greater efficiency, a faster response in the market and less need to store a large amount of inventory in the factory. Outstanding was the system promoted by the Toyota car manufacturing plants which came to be known as the TPS (Toyota Production System) or simply Just-in-Time. It was not until the 80s that this system spread to Western factories.
In its origins, the norm is that the factories follow a push system in which each phase in the manufacturing process accumulates its production which would then be removed by the following phase.
The great revolution of the Just-in-Time system as a system was that it followed a pull system in which each phase of the production asked the previous phase for what it needed when it needed it. In this way, they only produced what was necessary when it was really necessary and in necessary amounts, reducing the accumulation of inventory to a minimum. The Kanban system, based on cards, was created to communicate the demands of one phase to the previous phase.
This made it necessary to optimise all the production phases as well as a coordinated operation with suppliers and customers.
The Just-in-Time system philosophy
The Just-in-Time (JIT) methodology owes its name to the philosophy of doing only what is necessary when it is necessary and in with the amount that is necessary. Neither before, which would provoke an accumulation of inventory or unfinished products, nor after, which would mean a delay in serving customers and the corresponding increase in their dissatisfaction.
JIT is often identified with inventory management and the reduction in the need for safety stock. But Just-in-Time is more than just that. JIT is based on the principle of eliminating all waste. That is to say, all those tasks which do not contribute any value to the manufactured product or service provided must be eliminated.
This makes it necessary to maintain a problem solving attitude by identifying the real causes. Instead of increasing the safety stock necessary to make up for the differences between customers’ demands and the entry of supplies, the real causes are identified to try to eliminate these differences. The JIT methodology is in fact one of the methods which contribute to mitigating the bullwhip effect.
The Just-in Time philosophy requires emphasis to be put on global quality control with a continuous improvement mentality. Defects in products, in raw materials, in components or in services provided by suppliers or to customers would bring about a waste of resources at a high cost. Besides quality, the Just-in-Time principles prioritise customer satisfaction which can drastically condition the way in which products are manufactured, processed and distributed.
JIT applied to production systems increases the pressure on logistics, which needs to work with maximum efficiency. JIT methodology makes it essential for the relationship between different suppliers (raw material, components, services) and its B2B customers to be fluid, with open and efficient communication.
With the globalisation of markets, greater competitiveness and the boom in electronic commerce, consumers demand greater variety in products and reduced delivery times. A traditional approach would tend to increase safety stocks even more to face up to fluctuations in demand but market evolution and consumer behaviour demand instead an approach which is focussed on more efficient supply chains.
The Just-in-Time system has spread its application beyond production systems since just-in-time logistics is spoken of in customer service, order preparation inventory management and transport.
In supply chain management (SCM) it is necessary to have warehouses at those points in the chain where the goods have to stop, either to store them until they are sold or waiting for their distribution or temporary storage awaiting transport.
Warehouses also have to follow JIT principles, making it necessary to eliminate anything that could be considered to be unnecessary; speeding up picking tasks in the preparation of orders by using automated systems which reduce inventory errors, speeding up tasks related to reverse logistics, optimising the routes for fork lift trucks or warehouse workers and using the most suitable metal racking systems for each level of rotation and goods flow.
Automated order fulfillment
One of the most efficient ways of improving warehouse efficiency is by automated order fulfillment.
Disban H automated order fulfillment system designed by ATOX Technological Solutions enables orders to be prepared at very high speed, totally automated and synchronised with stock control software. In this way, inventory errors during the operation are eliminated.
ATOX automated pick dispensers are also very robust and energy efficient. This enables them to support great workloads as well as to provide a rapid response to order preparation at peak times. This feature has enabled Disban H automated pick dispensers to enjoy great success in pharmaceutical logistics where urban logistics accumulate the majority of orders for points of sale at specific times of day, conditioned by delivery time slots. Disban H automated pick dispensers enable a service to be provided quickly, giving a solution to peak workload situations.
The ATOX Technological Solutions pick-to-light system is an automated system for pick-to-light and put-to-light operations. With this system, warehouse workers can prepare orders much more efficiently at the same time as they reduce inventory errors.
The versatility of this ATOX system enables warehouse staff to be helped both in order preparation with pick-to-light operations and in the classification of goods for dispatch with put-to-light operations as well as in tasks related to reverse logistics.
One of the core ideas of the Just-in-Time management system is the elimination of unnecessary tasks. In this sense the smart roller conveyors designed by ATOX Technological Solutions enable movements by warehouse workers to be drastically reduced. Besides, combined with automated order picking, and the pick-to-light system, several warehouse workers can collaborate in preparing the same order without having to move from their workplace.
The ATOX roller conveyor system is a modular system which includes diverters, sensors and smart motorised rollers. Its versatility allows for any kind of route, including curved sections without any speed loss, and uphill and downhill sections.
ATOX designs and manufactures its metal racking and storage systems tailor made for each warehouse. With more than 50 years experience and a solid international presence, ATOX provides its own experience to advise its customers and design the most efficient storage systems for their specific needs.