One of the most fundamental elements of creating a lean environment is operating with one-piece-flow. The thought of processing one unit at a time can be intimidating to an organization if this isn’t the norm—especially if the plant is set up, and accustomed to, batch production. However, when incorporated properly into workflow and paired with the right technology to support the process, one-piece-flow manufacturing can yield significant benefits quickly.
By using automated material handling to achieve one-piece-flow, the elimination of waste occurs in a variety of areas. Here are seven advantages that can be gaged from successful implementation of a lean one-piece-flow production process:
1. Fewer Manufacturing Defects & Improved Quality
Batch production is beneficial in certain instances, but the risk of defects is significantly higher, since more inventory needs to be moved, counted, stored, and picked. With a one-piece-flow process, defects (or quality concerns) only impact a single part. Therefore, plant operators aren’t required to dedicate labour hours to testing other materials found in the same production run for quality issues. Rather, operators can trace back workflow for the single piece, and determine corrective actions to ensure the problem won’t reoccur.
2. Reduces Inventory
Each operation will only need to produce what is needed by the next operator. When followed properly, and by leveraging the capabilities of automated material handling, this process will eliminate any opportunity to build ahead and fall into delays.
3. Requirement for Less Space
As inventory levels are reduced, less space and manpower is required to receive, count, stock, store, pick and deliver stock. One-piece-flow results in work cells with optimized equipment layout, so a single operator can oversee many pieces of the equipment with minimal motion.
4. Enhances Overall Manufacturing Flexibility
Less inventory on the floor will allow lead times to drop, providing more time to react to customer orders.
5. Makes Identifying Future Kaizen Easier
Defects and WIP inventories will decrease, while issues on the shop floor will become visibly noticeable. If problems relate to take time or WIP, for instance, it will quickly become apparent, and changes can be made immediately to address them.
6. Ensures a Safer Work Environment
Less inventory means less clutter, which provides an opportunity to improve the layout of equipment at the workstations, and the overall layout of the cells.
7. Improves Employee Morale
We identify immediately production problems, giving work cell operators more ownership in their production area.
Source: Aug 24, 2017, “7 Advantages of One-Piece Flow in Manufacturing”, OTTO Motors, https://ottomotors.com/blog/advantages-of-one-piece-flow-manufacturing