Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

A Study of Characteristic Differences between Small JIT and Non-JIT Manufacturers

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

A Study of Characteristic Differences between Small JIT and Non-JIT Manufacturers

Article excerpt


The impact of just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing was evaluated in 25 small machined parts and fabricated metal manufacturing firms in the southeastern United States. Characteristic differences between firms using JIT and those that do not were investigated. JIT was found to occur frequently in small businesses where there was a higher degree of repetitive manufacturing with moderate product precision. Those firms that used JIT had greater sales, required more capital investment, employed more semi-skilled labor, and utilized more advanced production techniques than their non-JIT counterparts. JIT firms were also more likely to adopt other advanced management techniques. A higher number of semi-skilled employees appears to be prevalent in companies using JIT manufacturing. As JIT becomes more common, additional emphasis needs to be placed on understanding the impact of JIT on small businesses.


As large manufacturing firms' sales and employment are slipping, small manufacturing firms are enjoying modest gains (Starr, 1988). Currently, manufacturers with less than 250 employees comprise approximately 96% of all manufacturers in the United States (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1991). The strength of the small manufacturing sector supports Golhar and Stamm's (1991) assertion that small firms are a dominant factor in the economy. In light of these facts and the interest in the JIT philosophy of manufacturing, it is surprising to find so little research focused on the implementation of JIT in small manufacturing firms. Hence, Golhar and Stamm (1991) claim that this area is one of the two most critical areas for future research in JIT implementation. In an effort to expand this area of research, this study evaluates the characteristic differences between small JIT manufacturers and small non-JIT manufacturers in the machined parts and fabricated metals industry.

The implementation of JIT in small manufacturers has been presented conceptually by several authors. Finch (1986), Finch and Cox (1986), Galante (1987), Manoochehri (1988), and Sadhwani, Sarhan, and Camp (1987) provide insight into the elements of JTT, its implications for small manufacturers, and benefits adopters of this system may expect to receive. Examples are used to illustrate the feasibility and benefits cited by the authors. Winston and Heiko (1990) developed a conceptual model linking the distinctive advantages of small businesses to the general concepts of JIT for each phase of a firm's life cycle. The purpose of their study was to determine the applicability of JIT principles to small firms. Although Sonfield (1984) did not address the area of JIT directly, he identified seven Japanese management techniques and discussed their applicability to small U S. firms.

Recently, empirical studies of small firms adopting the JIT philosophy have begun to appear in the literature. Golhar, Stamm, and Smith (1990) conducted a survey of 20 midwestern firms with less than 500 employees, representing a broad range of industries. These firms indicated whether they experienced any changes in inventory, quality, employee participation, supplier relations, and customer service. The results showed improvements in all areas, although the firms felt there were problems with implementing the JIT philosophy. Stamm and Golhar (1991) also reported on the relaitonships between 29 small JIT manufacturers and their customers and suppliers. The survey explored three components of the JIT philosophy: reduction in waste, improved quality, and participation in decision making. The respondents indicated that they did in fact benefit in all three areas.

Large and small manufacturing firms adopting the JIT philosophy were compared in terms of their implementation of in-house and vendor JIT principles. Inman and Mehra (1990) also reported on the benefits these firms achieved by implementing JIT elements. Small businesses implemented in-house JIT elements equally as often as large firms; however, large firms used significantly more outside consulting to adopt the JIT philosophy. …

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