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Just-in-time: Safe delivery

02 December 2016

Research from Kansas State University suggests that 71% of senior manufacturing executives have used some form of the just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing method in their processes. Here, Andy Owen, managing director of electric tug specialist MasterMover, offers advice on how businesses can successfully manage a system based on JIT and improve their safety record

Developed in Japan in the 1960s and 70s, the concept of just-in-time is that a business holds no stock. It relies on deliveries of materials and components to arrive just in time to manufacture and fulfil a customer order, saving space and reducing cost. 

Having a just-in-time strategy puts pressure on manufacturers to deliver the stock quickly and on plant managers to ensure there are no delays. This can have a negative consequence on safety, with the expectation of moving goods quickly, leading to an increased risk of accidents. 

To ensure a safe just-in-time system, it is important for businesses to follow key processes. M. Sepheri, a JIT expert, published a methodology for businesses to follow. Sepheri considered housekeeping a top priority. He said that they should consider the physical organisation and discipline of their plant and that it should have a compact layout. 

Firms need to ensure that the steps in getting the product from the factory to the customer are efficient and do not waste any time or resources. A key step in this process is how businesses physically move goods. Traditionally, companies use forklift trucks or high levels of manual labour to move things. 

However, these methods can make the process a slow and dangerous one that can hinder the JIT methodology. Traditional equipment such as cranes and forklifts are fine for use at the periphery of a factory, but struggle as you get closer to the production lines, where narrower walkways can pose a safety risk to pedestrians. This means that more manual labour is required and is not great if you're trying to roll out a JIT system. 

Congested walkways also delay workers' movements if they have to wait for their path to clear or for a trained crane or forklift operator to move the product.

MasterMover’s range of electric tugs offers complete control and manoeuvrability. 

 According to the Health & Safety Authority, of the 70,000 self-reported non-fatal workplace injuries in 2014 to 2015 in the manufacturing sector, 25% were related to lifting and handling. By using electric tugs controlled by a pedestrian, plant managers can reduce the risk to employees who handle or lift large objects. 

By positioning the operator in front of, rather than behind, the goods where their vision would be impaired, the operator can see any hazards in their way. This reduces the risk to the employee transporting the goods, any employees in their vicinity and reduces the risk of damage to the goods themselves.  

Electric tugs can help companies to move their products,and help them maximise the efficiency, speed and safety of their production line, to create an effective just-in-time process.