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Automation in Packing Lines – JIT versus JIC in the Age of Virtual Inventories


June 19, 2023

In today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving business landscape, supply chain management plays a pivotal role in the success of organizations. Within many industries utilising automation and machinery, operation managers, production managers, and production engineers all face challenges in ensuring the efficient flow of materials, meeting regulatory requirements, and optimizing production processes. Two prominent supply chain management methodologies, Just-in-Time (JIT) and Just-in-Case (JIC), have long been employed to address these challenges. However, with the introduction of virtual inventories, an exciting transformation is underway. This article explores how virtual inventories are reshaping supply chains, particularly where JIT is not practical and must be maintained through JIC practices.

Just-in-Time (JIT) and Just-in-Case (JIC) are contrasting approaches to supply chain management, each with its own merits and applications. JIT aims to minimize inventory holding costs by delivering materials and components to the production line at the exact moment they are needed. Gaining worldwide popularity through the 1990s, this lean methodology helps reduce waste, minimize lead times, and enhance overall efficiency. On the other hand, JIC emphasizes stockpiling and maintaining surplus inventory to mitigate risks associated with supply disruptions, demand variability, and production constraints.

While JIT is widely adopted across various industries there are applications where it simply isn’t suitable. For industries which encounter stringent regulatory requirements, product expiration dates, and the need for rigorous quality control solely implementing JIT practices can be challenging. In these situations, often the JIC approach offers an alternative strategy for effective supply chain management.

Furthermore, in various industries where automation has been introduced to increase manufacturing productivity a secondary supply chain has also been introduced, one that is difficult to manage using JIT methods.

Automation often relies on critical components or spare parts to maintain production continuity. Several automation machinery manufacturers only offer closed systems, meaning these critical spare parts are bespoke to their machines. With long lead times and limited supplier options, customers who use automation have no choice but to adopt a JIC approach and hold excess stock of these critical spare parts to prevent the risk of costly downtime.

Enter virtual inventories like Addition’s AddParts service — a transformative concept that combines the efficiency of JIT with the risk mitigation of JIC. A virtual inventory can make use of real-time data and advanced digital technologies to manage component availability throughout the supply chain without physically holding excess stock. This innovative approach allows for better visibility, control, and coordination across multiple stakeholders, enabling a more adaptive and responsive supply chain.

Virtualizing inventory through Addition’s AddParts Customer Portal allows organizations to achieve efficient inventory management, reducing costs and optimizing stock levels while avoiding stockouts.

Going one step further, the integration of such virtual inventories with production planning systems enables agile production, facilitating rapid response to changing market demands, shortening lead times, and ensuring timely delivery. Additionally, the combination of digital libraries and production planning systems help mitigate supply chain disruptions by proactively identifying and addressing potential bottlenecks, allowing organizations to implement a JIC approach without the burden of excessive physical inventory.

While the adoption of virtual inventories requires careful planning and integration, Addition works closely with customers to help them take that first step in building digital copies of critical parts or even improve existing parts. With our deep understanding of automatic packing line components, we apply the most suitable materials and technologies to swiftly restore operations, minimising any financial and organisational impact on the customer.