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Understanding how One Piece Flow works is excellent, however implementing it is the hard part and takes effort from everyone involved. There is no official go-to guide on how to apply the concept as it is such a wide-ranging one however, there are some requirements needed to follow the concept. Once you have chosen your process and broken it down into separate blocks (workstations) you can analyze whether the process meets the requirements.

The factors are generally connected to one another, and once one is addressed the others tend to fall in line very quickly afterward. You just need to know what you need to do and analyze the easiest problem first.

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The main requirements are:

  • Any queue must contain just one work in progress item
  • Keep your uptime as high as possible
  • Measure and continuously repeat the time taken to complete a step of the process
  • Divide work and resources effectively between workstations and reduce bottlenecking
  • Use demand to scale your processes and operations.

The One Piece flow needs to be approached systematically, with plenty of measuring, assessing and documenting of each process involved. You cannot break down the projects into efficient tasks if you first do not know each of those tasks, how they are achieved, and knowledge in the necessary skills required. If the planned new ‘assembly line’ doesn’t meet the required production line for an order it will need to be re-evaluated. Sometimes a change in floor layout may be needed to make this possible – to avoid time spent moving from one process to the other. Placing workstations that require similar equipment together, or involve a similar type of task also reduces the travel time between steps. Make sure though that the group’s workload is evenly spaced to avoid bottlenecks in the flow.

Not only does this help implement the concept, but it also helps identify gaps and mistakes, steps that can be optimized as well as inefficient steps before you implement the concept. Running a regular audit once the concept is implemented will allow a business to update, and modify the flow when needed.

Is One Piece Flow right for my business?

As mentioned there are disadvantages and advantages to One Piece Flow, and while the theory may sound amazing, we also have to be practical.

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The implementation of One Piece Flow can be difficult to get right, and when done wrong will end up costing more time and money. If a business does not fully understand the concept, then it may not be suitable for their use. This is also hampered by the problem that in manufacturing while you have continuous manufacturing processes, once you include delivery you are suddenly thinking along the lines of batches. It makes no sense to deliver one item at a time when a customer requires 100. Therefore, the costs of storing those batches awaiting delivery while the flow is completed need to be outweighed by the cost of working in batches from the start.

Another previously mentioned issue is the motivation of workstation staff, is it possible to rotate workers to reduce the monotonous of their task? Or can other motivational tools be put in place such as additional training? Or can they be switched to another task once they have completed the order?

Plenty is to be taken into consideration when thinking about implementing One Piece Flow, and we are happy to help you work through those considerations. Get in touch with your questions, or even your experience with Lean and One Piece Flow concepts, we love to hear from you.