Just-in-time is not just for manufacturing: a service perspective There is a need for confronting the challenges posed by global competition, so companies are focusing on the needs of customers to improve product quality along with customer service. This philosophy has long been followed in manufacturing sector, and they are aware of the need to reduce waste as means to reduce costs and improve product quality. Just – in – time (JIT), the formalized process of reducing waste reduction, has achieved a strong foothold in the manufacturing sector.
However, the services sector has not been able to recognize the benefits of JIT. Services are very much like the manufacturing in sense, both employ processes that add value to the basic inputs used to create the end product. JIT focuses on the process, not the product. It can therefore, applied to any process within manufacturing or service operations. This article gives you insights as to how the principles of JIT can be implemented in services. The JIT concepts adopted by manufacturing organizations are process- oriented and can be summarized, following Benson (1986), as: Total visibility – of equipment, people, material and processes; ? Synchronization and balance – of production to sales and supply to production; ? Respect for people – line operators are responsible for production, problem solving and improvement; ? Flexibility – adapt production to customer needs; ? Continuous improvement – never satisfied with the process; ? Responsibility for the operation’s environment – those who design, manage and operate the processes are responsible for the outcome; ? Holistic approach – company-wide philosophy of elimination of waste.
Each of these JIT themes may be applicable to service organizations. Benson (1986) argues that, in fact, service operations are “organized systems of production processes” with the same potential for improvement through implementation of JIT precepts as manufacturing operations. Distinct differences do however exist. First, manufacturing firms produce “an object, a device, a thing” (Berry, 1980), while a service firm produces “a deed, a performance, or an effort”. The service is basically intangible.
Second, customers are often, but not always, involved in the production of a service, as can be seen in hotels, air transportation and universities. This involvement puts the customer in contact with the personnel providing the service and with other customers receiving the service. Third, because the service is provided as needed by the customer, the quality of the service cannot be checked prior to its delivery, as it can with manufactured goods. Differences exist not only between manufacturing and service operations, but between various service operations as well.
These six dimensions were defined as follows: ? Equipment/people focus: the core element in the service delivery is provided primarily by equipment or people; ? Customer contact time per transaction: the amount of time the customer is involved in the transaction; ? Degree of customization: the amount of customization available or required in the delivery of the service to the customer; ? Degree of discretion: the amount of discretion available to the person delivering the service to alter the service package or process; ? Location of value added processes: the proportion of customer contact taff (frontline staff) to the total staff requirements; ? Product/process focus: the degree of emphasis on “what” is purchased versus “how” it is provided. In each of these dimensions, the value and appropriateness of JIT techniques may be different. The use of JIT in services: These non-manufacturing environments include typical service businesses such as insurance firms, retailers and mail-order firms. We have summarized these current applications of JIT techniques in services using a slightly modified form of Benson’s (1986) guidelines for applying JIT in service: Synchronization and balance of information and work flow; ? Total visibility of all components of the process; ? Continuous improvement of the process; ? Holistic approach to elimination of waste; ? Flexibility in the use of resources; ? Respect for people. In conclusion JIT can be described as a waste elimination philosophy. JIT philosophy does not directly aim to manage inventory but as a result of JIT application inventory reduces or completely disappears.
Usability of such a philosophy in service sector is quite evident literature available. However, when it comes to applying JIT in service, JIT means something different. Literature on the matter quite confidently states that JIT can be applied in services and through reported case studies evidence is provided. Most important elements for service industries are total productive maintenance, process flexibility, JIT purchasing, smooth flow of materials, housekeeping, process flexibility, set up time reduction, administrative efficiency.
The difficult elements for service industries are total productive maintenance, quality function deployment, standardization, standard containers, and quality circles. It is recommended that the service industries should implement most important and less difficult elements at the initial stage. Using JIT methods to concentrate on decreasing the time required to provide a service, improving the quality of the service and, essentially, increasing the productivity of the economy are all potential advantages that may result from further research into and application of JIT techniques in service-oriented organizations.