Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Implementing JIT Purchasing: Does the Level of Technical Complexity in the Production Process Make a Difference? *

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Implementing JIT Purchasing: Does the Level of Technical Complexity in the Production Process Make a Difference? *

Article excerpt

Over the last two decades, an increasing number of companies have implemented just-in-time purchasing (JITP) techniques in an effort to sharpen their competitive edge (definitions of abbreviations are listed in Appendix A). JITP involves the procurement of quality materials meeting exact specifications via frequent, timely deliveries in small quantities. Companies within a supply chain itself tend to adopt JITP techniques to coordinate and integrate their own inventory management activities. Thus, JITP improves supply chain management (SCM) by synchronizing the flow of inventory throughout the supply chain and by joint reductions in channel inventories (Cooper et al., 1997; de Treville et al., 2004; Dong et al., 2001; Markland et al., 1998; Tan, 2001; Zimmer, 2002).

Although some empirical research on JITP exists (e.g., Ansari, 1984; Fawcett and Birou, 1993; Germain and Droge, 1997), scant attention has been paid to the implementation of JITP in different production systems. Unfortunately, the research methodologies utilized in the studies that do exist diminished and thus limited the value of their findings because (1) the extent of JITP implementation was not examined in companies that employed a mix of production processes (White, 1993; White and Prybutok, 2001), an important oversight because Celley et al. (1986) have reported that most of the companies they studied that implemented just-in-time (JIT) management systems employed a mix of production processes and often also implement JIT manufacturing (Dong et al., 2001; Fullerton et al., 2003; Monczka et al., 1998), and (2) the multidimensional nature of JITP was either overlooked (e.g., Handfield 1993a, 1993b; Handfield and Pannesi, 1995; White, 1993; White and Prybutok, 2001) or neglected to consider the possibility that the aggregate of JITP practices might not have been implemented with uniform diligence (Gonzales-Benito and Spring, 2000).

Research into the implementation and effectiveness of JITP in different production systems is vital because introducing JITP immediately, and sometimes profoundly, changes production environments. Configurations of production systems are extensively reviewed in the literature (Bozarth and McDermott, 1998; Devaraj et al., 2001; Khurana, 1999; Kim and Lee, 1993; Kotha and Orne, 1989). One issue frequently raised in these studies is that the implementation of new technologies--flexible manufacturing systems, JIT systems, quality management--are rendering the profiles of traditional typologies and taxonomies of production systems incapable of assisting managerial decision making. Although the implementation of JITP is often associated with repetitive production systems (e.g., Gilbert et al., 1994; Krajewski and Ritzman, 2001; Nicolaou, 2002), evidence indicates that JITP can be utilized by companies that employ non-repetitive production systems or that use a mix of systems. In short, the literature on JITP fails to respond conclusively to the following research questions:

* Does the extent to which JITP practices are implemented differ with the level of technical complexity of the production processes employed?

* Do firms implementing JITP exhibit the characteristics and performance criteria typically associated with different levels of technical complexity?

Utilizing the production system configurations suggested by Woodward (1965) and Hayes and Wheelwright (1979), this study contributes to the development of JITP theory by answering these questions, in ways that provide significant help implementing JITP to managers of companies employing a mix of production systems. Advocating utilization of JITP techniques only in a repetitive production environment can discourage some managers who might otherwise be interested in implementing JITP, and thus they lose the benefits JITP has to offer. In the following section, a conceptual model and research hypotheses, both derived from a literature review, are presented. …

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