Line Layout Strategies – Part 1: The Big Picture

Ford assembly line 1913In flow shops, you have a production line of some sort. This may be an assembly line or a manufacturing line; this may be automatic or manual. In lean, you often hear about the famous U-line.

While this is a great solution, it may not fit all problems. Depending on the surrounding conditions, a different line layout may be beneficial. This post is the first in a series on line layout. In this post I would like to discuss what you should consider when designing a new line layout. The next post will look at actual line layout options.

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Toyota’s and Denso’s Relentless Quest for Lot Size One

Relay Race Hand Over
Just when you need it …

A famous step toward perfection in a lean production system is a lot size of one. However, few people realize what enormous effort and rigor Toyota applies to achieve this goal. During my visit to a Toyota plant and the APMS conference in Tokyo in 2015, I saw quite a few stunning examples of this quest. Let me show you …

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Tales from Japan – Lean in the Japanese Public Toilet

Japanese Toilet SignWhenever I am in Japan, I look for examples of lean behavior visible to the public (see, for example, Japanese Standard Pointing and Calling). This time I would like to talk about Japanese public toilets and all the nifty features to make their use a pleasant experience. You will be surprised how much thought goes into public toilets in Japan. The same level of attention to detail is also something necessary for good lean implementations. Japanese public toilets in particular do a great job servicing the not-average user!

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Lean for Refugees

Refugees in HungaryEurope is currently experiencing a refugee crisis. Hard numbers are difficult to obtain, but it is estimated that one million refugees arrived in Germany in 2015. Government authorities were ill-prepared to handle and organize these people. Significant resources have been put in, but they never seem to be enough. The organizational processes are not yet functioning well.

As it happens, I am an expert in improving organizational and other processes. I decided to help, and together with two other professors,  founded an initiative, Lean for Refugees. We are politically neutral, volunteering our time to organize these processes so we can help both the refugees and the government. Let me give you an overview of what we have done so far.

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How to Reduce Your Inventory

InventoryReducing inventory is one of the goals of lean manufacturing. In my last post I described why we need inventory in the first place, and why too much inventory is bad for you. Now let’s look at how we can achieve a good inventory level. First, an important statement: Inventory is not a lever that you can pull. It is more the result of other good lean improvements. In fact, merely pulling this lever and reducing inventory will actually make things worse. To gain the true benefits of lower inventory, other measures have to be taken. In this post I would like to describe what happens if you simply reduce inventory, and how to do it to achieve a lower inventory without causing mayhem in the process.

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Why Do We Have Inventory?

InventoryInventory is expensive. Depending on your environment, inventory will cost you between 30% and 65% of its value. Toyota is known for (among other things) small inventories. Whereas Western companies often have weeks’ or even months’ worth of inventory, Toyota’s inventory is measured in hours.

It is no surprise that inventory reduction is high on the list for many companies. In fact, the term “lean” by itself implies lower inventories. But why do we have inventory in the first place? And why is (too much) inventory considered evil in lean manufacturing? In this post I would like to tell you the reasons why we have inventory in the first place, and why too much is bad. In my next post I will explain what happens if you simply reduce inventory, and discuss in more detail better approaches on how to reduce inventory.

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What Is Your Production Capacity?

Three HourglassesYour production capacity is one important aspect of your production system. The capacity has to match your demand. If your demand is higher than your capacity, then you will not be able to supply the customer. On the other hand, if your capacity is higher than the demand, then you will have lots of idle workers and machines, which is not good either. The name is actually a bit of a misnomer, since capacity is the ability to contain  things, whereas for a production system we are much more interested in the number of parts that are completed. In any case, capacity is important!

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How to Use an Andon – and How Not To

One Station Andon CordIn my last post, All About Andon, I detailed how the mechanical side of an Andon signaling system works, including Andon cords, buttons, and boards. In the Western world, the mechanical side of an Andon system usually works pretty well. However, in most cases, the usage of the Andon is poor to nonexistent. Hence, in this post I tell you how to actually work with an Andon, and then I will give you a rant why  companies so often mess it up!

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