Live Life Just in Time
One reason Japan is the manufacturing juggernaut and paragon of quality it is today can be attributed to a philosophy called Just in Time. JIT’s main objective is to improve efficiency by eliminating waste at every step of a manufacturing process. Brighthub PM quotes Fujio Cho of Toyota (the company to first employ JIT), who says waste is “anything other than the minimum amount of equipment, materials, parts, and workers, which are absolutely essential to production”. Brighthub goes on to say that the seven common types of waste are:
- Processing waste
- Waste due to idling time of machinery
- Waste due to product defects
- Waste of motion or faulty working techniques
- Waste related to transportation
- Waste from overproduction
- Inventory waste
In short, JIT prescribes that manufacturers avoid the waste associated with inefficient processes and that they continually streamline and improve those processes; that they avoid the waste of unused things sitting around doing nothing; that they avoid surpluses and make stuff when it’s needed, and only when it’s needed; and that they eliminate waste associated with transportation and unused inventory.
JIT gave Japan a big competitive edge in the latter part of the 20th Century against American automotive manufacturers (not to mention other industries). The Americans relied on large workforces and inventory necessary for production lines. Even if the inventory was defective–which it often was–the company had to unload it to cover associated manufacturing, storage, transportation and manpower expenses.
On the other hand, the nimbler Japanese companies and their small inventories were able to make continuous improvements to their products because there was nothing sitting on the shelves needing to be unloaded. This led to better products with higher profit margins.
The revolutionary idea behind JIT was that being over-prepared is a far greater liability to a manufacturer than being underprepared. The JIT company can always make more; the over-prepared cannot un-make their product. The under-prepared can adjust processes quickly; the over-prepared changes slow and stays on misguided trajectories because they are bound to inflexible processes and massive inventories.
The parallels between JIT and the way we live our lives are obvious. How often do we keep around stuff that we might need, only to incur the expenses of storage, maintenance, transportation and so on? How might our over-preparation impede our abilities to make important changes in our lives–move, change jobs, take vacations?
What if we only had what we needed, when we needed it? What if we were not bound to the expenses of large houses and lots of stuff? What if we could easily make changes to our lives when necessary because we were so unencumbered? What if we reduced the waste associated with long commutes? What if we eliminated the mental waste of staying in jobs we don’t enjoy, only kept to support our large infrastructures? What if we lived life just in time?
image via Wikipedia