November 1, 2016
Just-in-time manufacturing, otherwise known as JIT, began as a consequence of the limited resources and humble startup capital available to industries in post-war Japan. Plants had to abandon the en masse manufacturing style associated with traditional factories in favor of “spot” assembly and short-notice builds. The result was an efficient albeit slow growth path to making quality products for a global market.
JIT is now a critical component of industries worldwide. It’s been adapted by Mexican manufacturing plants keen on taking advantage of a highly skilled and competitively priced workforce. Meanwhile, it continues to pick up steam in developing nations in South America, Africa, and southern Asia. The reason is clear: growing populations of educated people within these countries drive up the potential for sophisticated manufacturing centers to take hold, but their economies lack the juice needed to fire up factories full throttle. JIT just makes sense.
A Match Made in Heaven
This is increasingly true thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT for short), the new wave of technology coupling classic machinery and devices with motherboards and a web connection. Companies are capable of harnessing the power of scattered resources like never before thanks to real-time interaction with machines and devices around the globe. Tech startups in developed nations take note: the ability to effectively join JIT and IoT together will prove to be a game-changing approach in the decades ahead.
Folks in the beginning stages of building tech enterprise from the ground up are well aware of the unprecedented and exceedingly paradoxical nature of the modern world economy. The potential for designing and implementing products and services has theoretically never been easier, but startup capital is not as accessible or plentiful as it was even just a few years ago. The key is achieving a lot with a little. While certainly not the same in many glaring ways, this current situation is similar to the one facing Japanese tech startups in the late 1940s.
With that in mind, the path to successfully implementing a product-based tech startup in the 21st century is undoubtedly going to involve the unification of JIT and IoT. In order to compete with established players in a given industry, small businesses will be in need of responsive, short-notice manufacturing solutions.
A Case Study
For example, a San Diego-based company providing underwater surveillance cameras will want its assembly line across the border in Tijuana activated the instant an order comes through from Scripps. Let’s say they ordinarily manufacture cameras for pools, but the client requests custom fittings to better monitor activity in saltwater conditions. The ability for every machine down the line to instantaneously adapt the new fittings request upon receiving the order would be the successful synthesis of JIT and IoT.
In some ways, the juncture of JIT and IoT is reminiscent of the strategies associated with global marketing. For instance, it’s not unusual for global marketing techniques to include ways to achieve as much as possible with a relatively minimal amount of resources. This can be a realignment of ploys and sales to better target one market over another, as well as automate a translation process to make it easy for a single marketing approach to transcend multiple demographics worldwide. It’s not too different from a small business using smart technologies to juggle orders in real time across continents.
Of course, the proliferation of IoT in the world of JIT manufacturing has a glaring Achilles Heel: cyber attacks. Companies propping up IoT-enabled manufacturing in developing nations have to have an eye on the software and network security. Consider the fact the latest successful distributed denial of service attack – or DDOS attack – was accomplished by exploiting the loose security standards of a webcam manufacturer in China. It’s no large jump of the imagination to see how smart machines responsible for the building of products short notice can be hijacked by hackers if they are not fitted with continuously updated malware protection.
Just-in-time manufacturing has a long history of success in situations where resources are limited while demand and market are virtually endless. Though less popular in recent decades, JIT is being jump started back to life thanks to the implementation of the Internet of Things alongside it. It’s through the successful synthesis of the two that today’s industry-minded tech startups have a chance to compete with established competitors on a global stage.
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