The concept of just-in-time manufacturing — revolutionary when it began to spread across U.S. factories in the 1980s — sought to reduce inventory to a very low level. The idea was to save money and reduce waste by making inventory more timely.
A just-in-time philosophy has now taken hold across the real estate and facilities industry. It was once taken for granted that corporations would hold enough inventory of physical space to provide each employee a workspace of his or her own. In a growing number of organizations, that approach has given way to more flexible strategies like free addressing. The result is a more timely response to the changing mix of employees from day to day, less wasted space, and lower real estate costs.
Meanwhile, shared office space is becoming a just-in-time option for corporations that need swing space. A comparable scenario is playing out with data centers. One big benefit of cloud and colocation data centers is that they enable organizations to respond more quickly and economically to increases in demand for capacity.
In the manufacturing world, the term “just-in-time” gave way to “lean,” but I still like the original phrase. It conveys a sense of timeliness, and timeliness is reshaping possibilities and expectations for facilities.
Another way to look at timeliness is speed — not rushed project schedules, but speed of response. Figuring out how to achieve speed is a crucial challenge for facility managers in the slow-to-change bricks-and-mortar world.
Smart building technology is a good example. New tools accelerate the identification of problems with building systems, enabling faster response. The same is true of data, which is no longer dawdling along a month or more late, but arriving in real time or near real time.
Then there’s the whole question of figuring out how to keep up with the rapid pace of technology development. For some examples of recent advances in technology, check out the articles on windows, energy, and the workplace in this issue, as well as our online exclusive piece on EMIS options.