How does the Just-in-Time construction process optimize project efficiency?

Discover how Just-in-Time (JIT) construction can enhance efficiency and reduce waste in your projects by delivering materials exactly when needed. Learn about the benefits and challenges of JIT practices.

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Lean construction techniques are growing in popularity. Under these principles, companies can do more with less by making smarter, more educated choices and moving away from tactics the industry has used for decades. One of these relatively new construction concepts is Just-in-Time construction ordering, and its goal is to prevent waste while also streamlining the construction process.

That’s a tall order. 

But it’s not impossible and many companies are choosing Just-In-Time principles to improve their bottom line, simplify their projects, and do away with unnecessary waste in terms of spending and materials. Here’s what you need to know about Just-in-Time so you can decide if it’s worth a shot.

Just-in-Time was originally a manufacturing materials management philosophy, originating in Japan. Through this policy, companies focus on eliminating waste by ordering the exact quantity of materials needed to manufacture a product and having it delivered exactly when it is needed. Toyota Production was one the most prominent success stories of JIT ordering.

Some companies within the construction industry have adapted JIT philosophies for their ordering systems. They build reliable supply chains and manage them closely in order to receive the materials required to complete a phase of the project without carrying excess inventory, paying for storage, or moving it multiple times—core benefits of just-in-time lean construction methods.

Just-in-Time principles

There are three core principles guiding the Just-in-Time management process. They include minimizing waste, continuously improving, collaboration and communication.

  • Minimizing Waste: The goal of just-in-time, whether in manufacturing or construction, is to reduce all types of waste. This includes wasted materials, time, money, and labor. 
  • Continuous Improvement: JIT is heavily influenced by the Kaizen philosophy, a Japanese term that means “change for the better.” The goal is to focus on making small improvements every day. 
  • Collaboration and Communication: Using Just-in-time in construction inventory requires clear, effective communication from everyone involved in the project. Effective communication leads to improved collaboration, helping these teams order the right items for the project when they need them, with fewer mistakes or reorders. 

Using just-in-time delivery construction methods might be a new frontier for most contractors and builders, but the benefits it can offer make it worth considering. 

Waste reduction

The biggest benefit that all construction companies can realize from the JIT concept is reduced waste. JIT avoids bulk ordering, which means there aren’t piles of extra material hanging around. Materials aren’t getting broken, ruined, or underutilized. 

There is also less wasted time on lengthy deliveries since supplier management is such a vital component of the philosophy. This leads to less downtime on the job site, allowing the project to run smoother and at a constant pace—one of the most significant just-in-time benefits.


Just-in-time construction ordering can save companies large amounts of money. First, since exact orders are placed, companies aren’t overpaying for extra materials. Also, since extra materials don’t need to be cleaned up and moved from site to storage, there aren’t any excess labor costs to deal with.

Reduced storage needs

Since there aren’t stockpiles of materials to deal with in just-in-time lean construction, construction companies using JIT inventory management have reduced storage needs. Rather than needing an entire warehouse for materials, these teams can order exactly what they need and have them delivered directly to the job site exactly when they need it.

Streamlined efficiency

Utilizing just-in-time in construction materials ordering allows crews to continue working on the task at hand. The materials they need are delivered to the site right when they need them. They don’t have lengthy deliveries to wait for and they don’t have to travel back and forth from a warehouse to bring materials to the project. This allows the team to work faster and more consistently on-site.

Also, the process of ordering materials is more streamlined. The communication that the company maintains with its trusted materials suppliers helps build a faster, more efficient relationship. Also, the software required to run a smooth Just-in-Time construction system drastically increases efficiency. 

Improve quality control

With fewer materials arriving on a job site, construction crews and receiving staff can focus most of their attention on quality control. Broken or defective materials can be returned and reordered faster than with traditional ordering methods, preventing customer-supplier disputes. This also does away with the tendency to store these materials as they’ll likely head right back to the manufacturer. 

There’s no denying that just-in-time in construction has its perks. But it’s a philosophy rather than a business practice, so there are some challenges that come along with its implementation. Here are some of the most common:

  • Supplier Reliability: For JIT to work, it requires reliable suppliers with steady supply chains. The entire process relies on construction companies trusting suppliers to get them the material they need when they need it.
  • Project Requirements: Construction doesn’t use the same materials over and over again as manufacturing does. Each project has its unique circumstances, which can make a system like JIT more difficult to use on every project. It might be a better fit for some projects than others.
  • Long Lead Times: Long lead times can throw a JIT system way off track. Some materials may be too difficult to get or require larger quantities than would align with the philosophy.
  • On-Site Storage: Even though Just-in-Time ordering delivers the exact quantities needed at just the right moment, there may be a need for material storage on-site. This can be a hassle and a construction site is rarely as secure as a warehouse. 
  • Schedule Changes: Changes in the project timeline can make implementing and using JIT software difficult, as orders need to be placed within an exact window to keep the materials on track.

Attempting to manage Just-in-Time construction ordering without the right tools is likely a recipe for delays. However, tools like Outbuild can help companies make JIT processes a reality. Outbuild can provide real-time access to the schedule and the lookahead plan so users can stay on top of their current inventory and project progress. 

Also, project partners can update information from the field, allowing the back office, project management, and procurement staff to stay up to date about any issues, quantity changes, and progress. These tools allow companies to better manage their suppliers and coordinate deliveries so they take place just in time for work to start. 

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Outbuild construction scheduling and planning playbook
Lee Evans
Tom Scalisi
Content Writer
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