This article shows about the stages of implementing continuous flow in a cell.
Before we start for implementing a new process, we should first draft an implementation plan. This plan should contain the reason for improving the process, a summary of the current and target conditions, an implementation schedule, and a recording sheet to record the results. Now we look at the stages of implementation.
Stage 1: Initial Process Design
An initial flow design of the different processes in the cell is created in stage 1 by a small team of managers and engineers. In this system, the product flows from one operation to the next immediately without waiting. New flow design is created based on real data collected from the shop floor. Operator balance chart is also prepared for each of the operators in the cell. This chart includes the major sequential steps at each workstations and time needed for each steps.
Stage 2: Mock Up
In stage 2, the production team does a non–production mock up of the new process. The goal of mock up is to introduce operators to the new process design and to find improvement opportunities before the actual process is deployed on the shop floor. Initial process design, layout diagram and operator balance chart are explained in detail to the operators. The work chart consists of detailed work of the operators, sketch of work station layout, and operator movements. While the operators go through new design, they come up with more improvement ideas and it’s noted in the work chart. The mock up stage should take one or two days.
Stage 3: Debugging
Debugging is the most important phase of implementing an efficient continuous flow. Working out the waste on the shop floor is called debugging. In this stage, actual process is carried out in the shop floor. The cell will run with operators; supervisors and engineers look for kaizen opportunities. All the workers operations and motions are observed carefully to look for improvements. The activities that do not physically or chemically transform the product are a waste and should be eliminated. Some activities like taking the tools, unclamping and clamping fixture cannot be eliminated, but we should try to reduce it as much as possible.
After debugging phase, the product starts to flow continuously as per designed stage. We should sustain the flow. The designed flow should become as part of daily operation schedule, so we achieve true continuous flow.
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