Just-in-time Manufacturing

Just-in-time manufacturing: Making operations faster and leaner

Many makers are turning to just-in-time manufacturing, an inventory strategy that optimizes production to increase profits and minimize expenses. 

Automobile manufacturing factory with robotic arms.

What is just-in-time manufacturing?

Just-in-time manufacturing (JIT) is a strategy that aims to reduce inventory costs and improve operational efficiency by producing goods only as they are needed.

Factory interior showing off-site construction company building prefab units.

Just-in-time scheduling to make manufacturing better

Just-in-time lets you go from a “make to sell” to a “sell then make” process model. If a manufacturing business has predictable orders, it minimizes input levels by only provisioning what’s needed for sales and production when they’re needed. Just-in-time reduces the inefficiency and cost of holding large amounts of inventory.

It’s a way of forecasting material usage, inventory, and productivity that changed many practices associated with traditional manufacturing that resulted in wasted resources.

The JIT process can also reveal motion waste, which is excessive movement of workers or inventory on the factory floor, or reduce transport waste by stacking outgoing orders instead of maintaining transport fleets in constant cycles with half-full trucks.

Just-in-time manufacturing differs somewhat from lean manufacturing. Although both methodologies prioritize eliminating waste and improving efficiency, lean manufacturing focuses on practices across the entire business, incorporating everything from marketing and customer-service performance to aftermarket customer relationship management.

Just-in-time production, on the other hand, focuses on the process of manufacturing itself. It often includes connected elements, like partners and workers on the factory floor, but is mainly concerned with making products efficiently.

Benefits of just-in-time production for next-level manufacturing

Businesses can be more nimble and responsive to customer needs by rearranging the steps in the manufacturing process.

Smaller footprint

Turning production around faster means reducing warehousing or storage costs for stock, parts, or materials.


Reduced material waste

Holding large amounts of production inputs in storage means they might be damaged or obsolete by the time they are needed, which is waste that compounds warehousing costs.



The barrier to entry for a new factory (or a new process in an existing factory) is easier, thanks to lower investments in equipment, warehousing, and staff.


Faster time to market

The time between receiving an order and fulfilling it is compressed, so manufacturing becomes more responsive to customer needs and changes in the market.


Fulfilled employees

Staff members are trained to be responsive and ready to pivot between duties. This creates a multiskilled workforce with higher overall job satisfaction.

Autodesk solutions for just-in-time manufacturing

Conceptualize, plan, and validate manufacturing facilities

Get Inventor + AutoCAD + Autodesk Fusion + more—Professional-grade tools for product development and manufacturing planning.

Manufacturers using just-in-time production

Screenshot of a 3D rendering of a Termobrasa water heater in exploded view


Increasing efficiency with Fusion Operations and Fusion 360

Just-in-time scheduling software gave water heater and pump supplier Termobrasa a new model to help it adapt to shifting workflows during the pandemic.


Image courtesy of Termobrasa

Outside a new courtroom in County Cork, designed and made by BAM Ireland.

BAM Ireland

Saving on costs with lean construction methods

To refurbish a courthouse complex in Cork, BAM Ireland started with the delivery date and used just-in-time production planning to compress the project to meet the deadline.


Courtesy of BAM Ireland

Two coworkers sit in office, looking at computer screen.

IG Masonry Support Ltd 

Identifying production line hiccups

A UK-based company streamlined its operations and reduced errors through digitalization. This digital transformation turned IG Masonry Support's bespoke products into a strategic advantage.


Just-in-time manufacturing resources

Fusion 360 Manage with Upchain is Autodesk’s cloud-based solution to bring people, skills, processes, and data together in a single hub, helping businesses streamline their work and apply just-in-time principles using scheduling software.


Autodesk Fusion Operations is a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) that reports on every aspect of production in real time, visible through user-friendly interfaces on mobile devices. This helps plant managers find and exploit the efficiencies that can enable a truly just-in-time workflow.


Learn how production scheduling tools can help manufacturers adapt to changing situations and identify high-quality production schedules.


Frequently asked questions (FAQ) on just-in-time manufacturing

What is an example of just-in-time manufacturing?

Whenever hungry customers use the drive-through of a popular fast food, they’re experiencing just-in-time production.


The restaurant keeps only the inventory inputs revealed by order histories (thawing more patties and slicing more salad vegetables around lunchtime, for instance). Staff members put them into production (by cooking and assembling food) only when the order is received at the window.

How is just-in-time manufacturing different from lean manufacturing?

Just-in-time manufacturing is a process that streamlines the manufacturing function by eliminating waste and improving efficiency in inventory warehousing, equipment use, factory layout, staffing, and production times.


Lean manufacturing also addresses efficiency, but it covers the whole customer-order function, applying similar improvements across the business, from marketing and sales to aftermarket customer service.

How is just-in-time manufacturing different from other manufacturing workflows?

Traditional manufacturing collects and assembles all the elements it will need to operate—from staff and inventory to workstations in the production line—for any anticipated influx of orders to ensure it can meet demand.


A just-in-time manufacturing process streamlines the provision of those elements, enlisting their use at a time that’s as late as possible in the production process but can still fulfill customer needs, minimizing downtime or waste of resources.

What are the risks of just-in-time manufacturing?

The most significant risk of just-in-time manufacturing is that the business may not have enough resources to fulfill customer needs if there is a spike in orders or an unexpected shift in market conditions.


Late-as-possible provisions can also increase prices from suppliers. Because supply can be interrupted by many factors—including pandemics, weather, or geopolitics—fewer resources may be available, with less room to innovate or experiment.