Management Improvement Dictionary: One Piece Flow

One piece flow (continuous flow) - lean manufacturing process to eliminate buildup of inventory and queues, to eliminate waste and make it easier to identify the source of problems quickly.

Takt time is used to synchronize the sub processes needed to produce one completed product (for example, a completed car). Thus allowing pieces to flow from one sub process right into the next without creating backlogs of completed product waiting to be used by other parts of the process. Obviously for this to work the overall manufacturing process much be designed to allow flow to proceed properly: WorkCell Design and Layout.

One piece flow is a concept that really requires systemic change to a traditional batch processing setup. Some management improvement concepts can be tried without too much change to the system required. One piece flow does not offer such opportunities. To try it on a small scale you can find some process that can be completely redesigned from start to finish. This allows learning on a small scale before adopting it for large processes.

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