What is one piece flow?
Fundamentally speaking, all aspects of Lean Manufacturing aspire to reduce or ultimately eliminate waste; which we understand manifests in various forms. One piece flow is typically implemented to minimize inventory and operator inactivity (wastes) between processes, allowing an assembly to be pulled through each required process efficiently.
As a very basic illustration, there is a popular exercise used to show the benefits of one piece flow. Three people are selected and each person is tasked with putting a different color dot on 10 separate pieces of paper. The first time the three people do this, the first person usually does all their red dots, then passes the pages to the second person who does all their blue dots, and then finally the third person does all of their green dots. The problem with this system is evident. There are always two people sitting with nothing to do. This wastes valuable time and resources.
What are the benefits of one piece flow?
When asked to do the above exercise again, one piece flow is added. The first person does their red dot, passes the paper down the line, and this is repeated. With the addition of one piece flow, inventory is not being built up at one station, errors are found sooner, and everybody is working. The same benefits apply in a manufacturing facility. Taking an engine production line as an example, if one station adds cylinder heads to engines, stockpiling engines at their station, and meeting their quota before passing the finished engines to the next station, the whole line is idle while waiting. There is also the possibility that the cylinder heads were placed on the engine incorrectly, and instead of catching that immediately, it might not be noticed for hours.
One piece flow and the seven wastes
Given the examples above, it is apparent that implementing one piece flow into a facility can improve issues related to the popular seven wastes. Adding one piece flow will present transportation savings because you are moving individual pieces down a line as needed instead of a large stock all at once. Inventory waste is reduced by removing storage space at each station. Catching defects during production earlier in the process cuts down on defects in the final product.
How to implement one piece flow in your facility
Implementing one piece flow in your facility can be challenging. Most operators will think passing on items from one station to another will be difficult and time consuming. Starting with one line and allowing time for operators to see the benefits of the new system is key to a successful launch.
Are you interested in how Trilogiq can help you with one piece flow? Contact us to find out more.