Just-in-Time History

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The technique was first used by the Ford Motor Company as described explicitly by Henry Ford's My Life and Work (1923): "We have found in buying materials that it is not worthwhile to buy for other than immediate needs. We buy only enough to fit into the plan of production, taking into consideration the state of transportation at the time. If transportation were perfect and an even flow of materials could be assured, it would not be necessary to carry any stock whatsoever. The carloads of raw materials would arrive on schedule and in the planned order and amounts, and go from the railway cars into production. That would save a great deal of money, for it would give a very rapid turnover and thus decrease the amount of money tied up in materials. With bad transportation one has to carry larger stocks." This statement also describes the concept of "dock to factory floor" in which incoming materials are not even stored or warehoused before going into production. The concept needed an effective freight management system (FMS); Ford's Today and Tomorrow (1926) describes one.

The technique was subsequently adopted and publicized by Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan as part of its Toyota Production System (TPS). However, Toyota famously did not adopt the procedure from Ford, but from Piggly Wiggly. Although Toyota visited Ford as part of its tour of American businesses, Ford had not fully adopted the Just-In-Time system, and Toyota executives were appalled at the piles of inventory lying around and the uneven work schedule of the employees of Ford. Toyota also visited Piggly Wiggly, and it was there that Toyota executives first observed a fully functioning and successful Just-In-Time system, and modeled TPS after it.

It is hard for Japanese corporations to warehouse finished products and parts, due to the limited amount of land available for them. Before the 1950s, this was thought to be a disadvantage because it forced the production lot size below the economic...
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