We're here to help. Get in touch. | info@shieldworksmfg.com
China Headquarters: +86 (0)756 3828390

Manufacturing Trends: The Just-In-Time Inventory Management System

You may not believe how much capital is actually tied up in inventory. Inventory, along with accounts receivable and accounts payable, is equivalent to 7% of the US GDP.

With so many resources tied up in inventory, it’s no doubt that businesses are constantly re-evaluating their inventory management system.

One of the most popular traditional methods is the just-in-time inventory management system. But after the pandemic changed the way many businesses operate, it may be time to consider a new method.

Below we have created the following guide explaining the importance of your inventory management system. We’ll also talk about finding the production planning sweet spot.

How Does Just-In-Time Work?

“Just-in-time” is a method of inventory management that means inventory arrives exactly when it is needed. It’s also commonly referred to as a “pull” system. This is because the system replaces supplies as goods are consumed.

Just-in-time inventory works based on the idea that materials arrive when you expect production to begin. However, they should not arrive before production begins.

Essentially, production can’t begin without inventory. But businesses using JIT don’t want to incur any storage costs for inventory that arrives too soon.

Many businesses have relied on JIT to keep production value balanced with inventory levels. This keeps capital free to use in other areas of the company while meeting production demand.

JIT works the best when a company has trusted suppliers. They provide consistent quality of materials at the expected times. Simultaneously, suppliers provide products in long-term contracts that mitigate price fluctuations.

Because this model relies on a smooth supply chain, unexpected supply chain interruptions can disrupt the entire process. Sudden shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic can have detrimental effects on the end production of a product.

For this reason, many businesses suffered. Over 60% of small businesses reported disruptions in the supply chain during the early pandemic.

Just-In-Time Inventory Used Successfully

However, this doesn’t mean that a JIT system isn’t effective. Just-in-time inventory management works well in numerous industries and will continue to be effective.

Take restaurants. Food preparation uses a just-in-time inventory approach because many ingredients don’t last longer than a day or two. Chefs will have to buy meat to serve every day by estimating what diners will order.

Fast fashion is a segment of the fashion industry that relies on just-in-time systems. Chains like Zara don’t order ahead for an entire season.

Instead, they’ll design and manufacture items with short turnaround times. Fast fashion brands will be able to keep up with trends as they happen.

You may have heard of dropshipping in the eCommerce world. Dropshipping only purchase products from the manufacturer when a customer places an order. The eCommerce seller carries no inventory and essentially outsources inventory management.

Based on these business models, just-in-time inventory management can be successful. Many industries will continue relying on a just-in-time system. But you may find it to your benefit to start mixing in other strategies for your inventory management.

Just-In-Time vs. Just-In-Case: Pull vs. Push

Companies use just-in-time inventory to prevent excess supply from building up. This will keep inventory low and cut costs as much as possible.

But what happens when the supply chain gets stopped? In 2020, 82% of mid-market manufacturers had to significantly reduce production or shut it down completely at some point.

This then affects sellers using just-in-time management. They won’t receive the materials and products for customers. Instead, they can only sell what they have.

With a JIT, businesses wouldn’t have a lot to sell. They would run out of existing inventory quickly.

At the same time, demand for certain products, especially health-related items, skyrocketed. Businesses in this industry could not keep up with the high demand.

Here’s where just-in-case inventory management comes in. It helps to facilitate growth by allowing companies to keep up with most demand.

JIC inventory management focuses on maximizing inventory by purchasing larger inventory orders. This helps to manage unpredictable demand and survive disruptions in the supply chain. This approach will no doubt become more popular in the wake of the pandemic.

JIC is referred to as a “push” system because inventory purchases are not based on current demand. JIT is a “pull” system because inventory is purchased to order.

The main drawback of JIC is the additional costs of holding the excess inventory. Businesses will place larger orders if they use JIC, which will increase the cost of the order and tie up capital in inventory. Maintaining the excess inventory will raise storage and management costs.

Finding the Sweet Spot

If the pandemic has proven anything, it’s that JIT can’t be relied upon alone. Supplier stability is returning closer to normal. However, the way that many businesses operate has changed forever.

Businesses are starting to realize that balance will provide the most benefits. Both JIT and JIC systems have positive qualities. Combined, they can create the most effective inventory management system.

Companies can create a hybrid inventory management model. In practice, it would use both the buffer of just-in-case and the conservative use of capital associated with just-in-time.

A hybrid system involves having some parts of the supply chain operate in a push model and others operate in a pull model. There needs to be more demand forecast involved than with JIC. But a hybrid model wouldn’t have standing inventory rest at zero like it would with JIT systems.

The main goal of finding the sweet spot is to address the needs of both long-term and short-term production. Inventory levels should be low enough to be cost-effective but high enough to survive production delays or higher demand.

You may want to consider using JIC for quick-turnover items. It can also be used for scarce items or items with long lead times. JIT inventory can be used for less popular items, like the customization of a certain product.

Leveraging the Right Inventory Management System

The right inventory system is all about balance. And when it comes time to choose your manufacturer, you want a team that understands how to utilize the best practices of different inventory management systems.

Shield Works is a managed precious assembly, manufacturing, and warehouse facility based in the heart of Zhuhai City, China. Learn more about our manufacturing services by contacting us.