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Using Lean in Build to Order


Using lean in build to order is a great way to make the system efficient. Even though the products you are manufacturing have to be built to certain specifications, it does not mean that you can't have a smooth system to do so. What you must understand is the relationship between lean production and built to order. To understand this, we must first define the terms:

Lean Production: Lean production is basically a system that uses minimal amounts of resources to produce a high volume of high-quality goods with some variety. Or in other words, a system that takes the concept of assembly line production, but utilizes it for systems that need variety.

Build to Order: This is pretty self explanatory, as it is simply that a customer can specify the components and features they want included. In most cases however, these features are the same for any order that requests them. For example, Dell computers has a system where you can call in and say what you want included with your computer, whether it is a DVD player, burner, lots of ram, etc. You aren't actually customizing the DVD burner you are having put in, you are just customizing what goes into YOUR computer. So, your computer is built with standard parts, but it is built based on what you order. So it is built to order! Build to order is sometimes called mass customization.

Now, that we have the definitions of these two terms it is somewhat easy to see how they exist together, but let's take a closer look at how they interact:

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of it, lean production is a key prerequisite for build-to-order, at least when you are looking for large quantities of build-to-order products.

So, now that we know we must have lean production, let's look at what we need to make a lean production system. These are product line rationalization and standardization. If you have both of these two elements you can simplify the supply chain and manufacturing operations.

It is also important to know what kind of lean production your company will be using as there are two types: replacement and spontaneous build-to-order.

Let's take a closer look at these and thus allow you to determine which is better for your company. In replacement lean production parts are common enough to be already built and available to be pulled into assembly. So this is like the above Dell example. All of the parts are already made, and are common, and just need to be selected and put together.

So, if replacement lean production is using already built parts, then it would make sense that spontaneous build-to-order would mean using parts that are already made and parts built on-demand from standard raw materials.

No matter what type of lean production you use in your build to order business, the most important thing to remember about lean production is that your goal is the ability to build products quickly and efficiently in batch-size-of-one. To make that process efficient and fast you must already be set up. If you have set up the work station for every order you are wasting valuable time. You must also eliminate all delays. Have all components readily available and easy to find. Before you start any lean in build to order be sure to find and load parts, position work pieces, adjust machine settings, change equipment programs, and find and understand instructions. If you can do this you will be able to use lean in build to order to streamline your assembly, and make more money by spending less time.

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