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Journey To Just-in-time: The Lean Approach

Just-in-time (JIT) is a key concept in manufacturing. It originated in Toyota as a way to

survive the economic aftermath of World War II and has since become a modern-day

blueprint for Organisational Excellence.

In this article, we’ll uncover more about its history, principles, and how to implement it in

your business.

Journey To Just-in-time  The Lean Approach written on chalk board

Origins of just-in-time

JIT’s original purpose was to reduce time in operational processes, ensuring efficient use of

all resources. At the time, Japan was facing severe resource constraints and the economy

needed to recover post-World War II. This demanded an approach to manufacturing that

could minimise waste and maximise efficiency.

The first framework

Toyota couldn’t afford to invest in massive inventories or survive the costs of

overproduction. Engineer Taiichi Ohno observed that it was beneficial to produce only

what was needed – when it was needed. And so he developed the initial framework for JIT.


Ohno introduced the concept of ‘Kanban’ – a card system that would indicate the need for

part production or supply. This significantly reduced inventory levels, lead times, and costs.

For example, take a Toyota assembly line where tyre installation is one of the last steps.

The JIT approach could ensure that delivery to the assembly line would be 'just in time' for

installation, which minimised the storage space required, cut holding costs, and guaranteed

the tyres wouldn’t deteriorate in a warehouse.

Just-in-time outside of Toyota

As JIT gained momentum, the philosophy began to take root beyond Toyota. It dovetailed

well with the broader Lean supply chain, significantly evolving the global industrial and

manufacturing landscapes. Now, manufacturers across the world can considerably lessen

waste, quickly adapt to market demands, and operate on leaner budgets with enhanced


Key principles of JIT

Key and principles in text

● Demand-driven production makes sure it’s only triggered by customer demand,

which minimises inventory costs.

● Process refinement and efficiency help create a culture of Continuous


● Quality management throughout production results in fewer defects and reworks,

meaning lower costs and higher customer satisfaction.

● Fostering strong supplier relationships causes a coordinated supply chain reactive

to demand.

● The Kanban system facilitates workflow and inventory management visually,

ensuring seamless communication within processes.

● Empowering employees by involving them in problem-solving and process

improvements and providing education and upskilling breeds a proactive culture.

These principles offer a unified approach to managing production and inventory efficiently,

enabling the manufacturing business to adapt to dynamic demands in the marketplace.

Implementing JIT in modern business

To transition to a JIT framework, you’ll need to take a careful approach to change


● A comprehensive education programme so that all employees understand JIT

principles and benefits.

● Process analysis and mapping to enable identification of bottlenecks, waste, and

opportunities for improvement.

● Technology integration to automate and streamline processes, facilitating real-

time data collection and examination.

● Collaborating with suppliers to ensure that they’re aligned with the JIT objectives

and can meet demand.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor and measure the success of JIT


● Cultivating a change management culture receptive to Continuous Improvement.

Adopt the 'just-in-time' approach with Manufacturers Network

By embedding JIT principles into your organisation, you’ll not only reduce operational

inefficiencies but build a culture of improvement and sustainable growth. Your business

will become leaner, increase its agility, boost its competitiveness, and be able to tackle

changes in the modern market.

To learn more about the ‘just-in-time’ principles or sign up for one of our courses, please

contact us:

● Phone: 0161 533 1617



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