The questions you’ve always wanted to ask about the changing role of human operators in just-in-time materials handling and the skills that industries will need in the future

At Yale, we pride ourselves on our ability to listen to the industries we work with, and we provide expert advice along with leading materials handling solutions designed to meet specific needs or solve common problems. In this blog post, we’ve pulled together some of the questions we are asked about the specific demands that just-in-time operations place on materials handling. Get in touch if you think there’s anything we’ve missed.

What is ‘Just-in-Time’?

‘Just-in-time’ is an inventory management system in which materials or components are delivered immediately before they are required in order to minimise storage costs and maximise productivity.

Where did the just-in-time concept originate?
It was pioneered by the Japanese car manufacturer, Toyota, in the 1970s.

What is the alternative to just-in-time?
A ‘just-in-case’ system, where large inventories of materials, goods and staff are held so there is a guaranteed supply on hand when needed in the production process, reducing downtime.

What is ‘just-in-sequence’?
‘Just-in-sequence’ is an advancement of the just-in-time concept, where components arrive at an assembly line in a specific order as they are needed.

What are the attendant risks in implementing just-in-time practices?
There is very little slack in the system, so efficiency must be consistently maximised. If suppliers are disorganised, unreliable and unable to react to fluctuations in demand, the system is disrupted. Also, increased transaction and fuel costs prevail.

What are the attendant risks in implementing just-in-case practices?
Working capital is tied up, larger premises are required and wastage increases as parts become obsolete, unrequired, or out of date.

How can telematics assist with just-in-time?
The provision of data on the materials handling fleet that can be easily managed and interpreted optimises asset utilisation. It acts to drive improvements in fuel efficiency and service life, while working to fine-tune maintenance schedules and enhance workflow, so improving profitability and eliminating unplanned downtime. It is also increasingly being extended across the supply chain to maximise responsiveness to customer orders.

Why are materials handling improvements so important in just-in-time?
Customised equipment developed for particular working environments and designed around the operator can act to drive significant efficiency improvements, so playing to the strengths of just-in-time.

Is there a role for humans in the just-in-time environment of the future?
Despite increasing automation and deployment of telematics, there will always be a need for the human touch as businesses prosper and grow through improved productivity. There will, however, be a shift to more value-added roles associated with administering and interpreting the new technology.