Tight flow, the universal form of the just-in-time method, was conceived by T. Ohno in the mid-1950s and subsequently systematized by Toyota. At the same time as it was being spread throughout the industrial world by the global implementation of Toyotism, managers and directors in the service sector also began to take note of its advantages. The results are now quite evident: in the fast food business by the conspicuous absence of hamburgers languishing on grills between the kitchen and the counter; in retail business, stocks are always on the move, aboard trucks plying between the suppliers and the hypermarkets; in air transport, the concept of ‘shuttles’ or even hubs (connecting centres between flights), have transformed passengers and their luggage into a vast, continuous flux. There are no more (or hardly any) stocks: workers, material and information circulate non-stop in a vast, quasi-Brownian movement. Mass production, with its stocks (one of the definitions of Fordism) has given way to a new production method characterized by its fluidity, constant movement and the elimination of stocks and buffers between the manufacturing and service centres. The tight flow can thus be seen as the systematization and, in particular, the generalization of just-in-time. As we shall see in the course of this chapter, by using the term ‘tight flow’ instead of ‘just-in-time’ (coined and applied to the logistics of the motor vehicle industry), we gain much in terms of abstraction and generalization in order to bring to light a whole new production paradigm and its massive spillovers on to society at large.
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