Just-In-Time manufacturing, commonly referred to as JIT, is a company wide philosophy aimed at eliminating a company's waste. Waste can be found in many forms. For example it can be defined in the material form such as plastic or metal scrap, or it can be defined in the administrative form as excessive overhead that slows production or adds an unnecessary expense. The basic theory behind JIT is a pull system that is driven by a demand of supplies. This results in a near zero inventory which reduces the normal cost of storing inventory. The end result of JIT is a company that runs on reduced costs, continuously improving quality and performance, faster delivery times as well as greater flexibility. Throughout history, JIT manufacturing has been implemented on the largest of scales, such as automotive suppliers and assembly plants. This is due to the fact that only the larger companies have the funding to get past the typical high initial cost of setting up the JIT system. Also, JIT systems work best in a high volume, repetitive process which are both very common attributes of automotive assembly plants. The automotive companies also have the muscle to make the demands on their suppliers that are necessary to keep a JIT system running. If the suppliers are not dependable and dedicated to the process failure is inevitable. Customers place great trust and responsibility in the hands of their suppliers in a JIT situation. Any delays or shortages that a supplier comes across will almost always shut down the customers operations, causing backups and order delays. Any problems in a JIT system are felt like a domino effect from the bottom supplier all the way up to the final customer.
While the JIT system has many advantages that can be offered to companies there can be problems with the system as well. In recent history, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company saw a large spike in the number of tires ordered from its customers. Unable to meet the new demand at the normal production rates, Goodyear was forced to skip scheduled machine maintenances and expedite shipping at higher costs. On top of that, line workers were forced to work longer than normal overtime shifts which cost the company more money but even worse caused workers to become highly stressed, less productive and much more likely to quit. The high turnover rate costs the company both money and time since trainings were more often needed for all of the replacement employees. All of this comes without the opportunity for Goodyear to raise its sales prices due to pressure from the competition. Goodyear isn't the only company feeling the pressures of JIT. Many other companies are delaying maintenance, running operations 24 hours a day and still looking for ways to improve productivity. "We leaned things out so much, got rid of so many people that we just don't have the capacity anymore," says Bill Swanton, vice president for manufacturing strategies at AMR Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass (Galuszka 1999). There are new computer based options that these companies have to attempt to solve these problems. New software programs teamed with networked computer systems allows for demand to be forecasted much better than before. This allows the manufacturers to ramp up when high demands are forecasted and to perform the necessary maintenance when times are a bit slower. The new software provides an advantage for the companies but comes with high fixed costs that many cannot afford at this time. Typical systems cost upwards of $100 million. Companies such as SAP AG offer these JIT system software/hardware packages that coordinate the supply chains for an even more effective JIT process. Analysts say that there is even more room for improvement using the web (Songini 2000). These elements allow the paired companies to share as much forecast and current information as possible which results in better communication and fewer...
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