The enemy of JIT is uncertainty. A JIT environment thrives on predictability in customer demand, production processes, suppliers, and workers. Of course, uncertainty cannot be completely eliminated in most organizational environments.
The defense against uncertainty that cannot be driven out is to implement flexible resources that can adapt easily to changing circumstances. General-purpose, moveable equipment that can fulfill a wide variety of production requirements is one way to improve flexibility. For example, drilling machines with quick-change bits which can be wheeled into position to form new work cells allows the factory to maximize efficiency while producing exactly what is needed to satisfy immediate demand. Another example is Toyota’s use of paint canisters that attach to paint sprayers. Any car can be painted any color without having to purge hoses in switching from one color to another.
Multifunctional workers are another way to bring flexibility to the work environment. At Honeywell’s heating and cooling controls plant, workers are trained to operate all the machines on their work line. The flexibility that comes from multifunctional workers changes the nature of how work gets done. Instead of workers being trained on one machine and working independently of one another, multifunctional workers have a “big picture” view of the production line, where every worker understands all aspects of the line and how to work together to meet quality and schedule goals regardless of the circumstances.