How To Implement Just-in-Time Inventory Strategies In A Printing Business

The right products in the right place at the right time: that’s the aim of every inventory management system. A core element of that system is Just-in-Time (JiT) management. But what is Just-in-Time printing? What are its benefits? And how do you make it work in your print business?

Written by
Ella Faulkner
Internal Sales

What is Just-in-Time printing?

Just-in-Time inventory management isn’t peculiar to the print industry. Wherever a sector buys, sells and works with a supply chain, JiT systems can make an impact.

In a print business, JiT is about hyper-efficiency. Implement Just-in-Time printing in your print shop, and the aim is always to have the right materials in stock to complete orders, with very little excess stock to clutter your shelves and eat up cashflow.

With Just-in-Time, you order only what you need to complete the orders that are coming in, and you use that stock swiftly.

Benefits of Just-in-Time printing

Save on storage space

If you’re not tightly controlled when it comes to inventory management, you probably order rather more print material than you need. ‘Just in case’ rather than Just-in-Time is your watchword. You’re never caught out by an order because the materials are always sat waiting on a shelf… somewhere.

The problem with that strategy is that the more inventory you hold, the more space you need to store it, and storage – whether that comes in the form of extra racking at the expense of printer space or leasing larger premises to contain it all – comes at a cost.

The leaner you run, the less space it requires and the lower your costs

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Improve cashflow

Every print product that sits on your shelf costs money. The longer it sits in storage, the more of your money is locked away in papers, vinyls, inks and laminates. Just-in-Time printing ensures you keep more of your cash liquid, where you can use it far more flexibly.  

Reduce waste

The more stock you have in storage, the greater the risk that over time it will become creased, crumpled or damaged. At that point, you’ll have effectively paid to store print materials only to eventually throw them away. It’s hard to think of a more pointless waste of time, effort and money.

It’s also the case that customer trends change. This year’s most popular print product/colour/finish may not be next year’s. Just-in-Time printing enables you to stay agile to changing customer preferences, so you’re not left with masses of waste stock when your market moves on.

Improve efficiency

All stock needs ordering, delivering, processing and storing. The more you order, the more time, effort and cost you bake into your inventory management processes. Just-in-Time printing keeps the required admin low. 

Then, when it’s time to retrieve your print materials from storage, a JiT approach makes finding the inventory easy. When finding the right print material takes seconds not minutes, your print room becomes much more efficient.

Act sustainably

Every business is working to be more sustainable. A great starting point is by simply ordering less and creating less waste.

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How to make Just-in-Time printing work in your business

The key to implementing Just-in-Time inventory strategies in your print business is being able to ‘hook up’ your customers with an understanding of your stock and the capability of your suppliers, so they combine to create a smooth, seamless process.

Understand your audience

What do you know about your customers’ businesses, trends and challenges? When do they hit their peak demand? What products are in greatest demand? When are their fallow periods? The better you know your customers, the more effectively you can set a baseline for your JiT inventory management.

Understand your inventory

How does stock travel through your business? What print materials arrive one day and are gone the next? What materials ‘stick’, blocking shelves for weeks or longer? The better you understand your inventory and the way it ebbs and flows based on customer requirements, the leaner your JiT operation will be.

Inevitably, you’ll need some IT help here. A print inventory management system can give you the data – and the simple analysis and visibility – to be able to understand your inventory’s journey.  

Understand your suppliers

Your organisation may be willing to shift to a Just-in-Time print operation, but you don’t operate in a vacuum, so you’ll need your suppliers to support your journey.

If, for example, you work with a supplier who only accepts high minimum order numbers, you may feel they conflict with your new ambition to work lean. This part of the process is about open dialogue. It’s about telling your suppliers what you’re aiming to achieve and why, and asking for their help in supporting that strategy.

The nimbler your suppliers, and the greater their ability to deliver small batches and short notice orders, the more likely they are to be able to positively support your Just-in-Time printing mission.

Soyang helps busy print businesses make good on their Just-in-Time print ambitions. To find out how, talk to us.

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