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How to achieve single piece flow manufacturing

There is a good reason for why Japanese manufacturing techniques have largely overcome American techniques. While American techniques have been responsible for much of the success of the industry in the last years, Japanese techniques have emerged that greatly improve the efficiency of the same processes. You might have things like lean manufacturing, Kaizen, or lean deployment. The most famous is a general method known as TSP, which is Toyota's organizational model. Many of these methods are designed to find ways to eliminate waste in the manufacturing process. Companies look at the ways that manufacturing processes run itnto problems or expend too much energy. They target the things that lead to overproduction and general waste. Another goal of many of these procedures is to find ways to develop more fluid production methods. Another technique that has been used in recent years with similar goals is called single piece flow manufacturing. Single piece flow is a method designed to decrease the total number of defects and at the lowest cost to the company and the consumers. Traditional manufacturing works according to a method known as batch and queue, which attempts to process large groups of products at once. Single piece flow works by passing a single product along the production line so that it receives a great deal of attention.

Perhaps an analogy is in order to help us understand what single piece flow manufacturing is. Imagine that you are making cookies. Obviously you need to make the largest number as quickly as possible, but you don't want to make any mistakes. Now you can either work on each cookie individually, applying frosting and any other decorations or you can just throw random frosting and decorations across all of the cookies at once. If you can work on each cookie individually you will obviously have the most success imagniable. If you just throw the ingredients around you will make mistakes and the final product will be far less successful. Lean manufacturing is a little bit similar; because each product passes through the manufacturing line individually it has the most attention possible. Otherwise the process simply processes large amounts of products at once and thereby created the most defects. Because single piece flow manufacturing produces more effective products they tend to create more cost effective products as well.
So how can you achieve your single piece flow manufacturing for your business? It is difficult to do so but you can do it. I recommned that you bring in a professional consultant who has worked with single piece flow manufacturing. Changes from batch and queue to single piece flow are fairly difficult to make because they can dramatically alter a production process. More than anything, it requires a real change in mindset for your employees. You might not have to change technology too much, but you will probably need to go through some significant training with your employees. This is because they will be going from one manufacturing mindset to another; batch and queue requires a higher speed lower quality mindset while single piece flow emphasizes quality. Single piece flow also emphasize overall efficiency and requires a bit more attention to get it. Your workers might need to be more careful and deliberate in the way they manufacture goods. One way to help get single piece flow to work is through a rewards system that pushes employees to attempt better quality rathern than speed. Help your employees to take more pride in their work and support them when they do so.

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