Learn what is one piece flow in manufacturing and how it can boost profitability and improve product quality by reducing cycle time and minimizing waste in production.
Published 25 Aug 2023
One piece flow, sometimes referred to as "continuous flow" or "single-piece flow," is a discrete production method used in lean manufacturing that is closely associated with the Just-in-Time system—a key concept within the Toyota Production System. One piece flow is also one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to developing a lean environment.
It is closely associated with the Just-in-Time system because manufactured goods go through a continuous flow of steps with no Work-in-Process (WIP) or downtime. In a one piece flow setup, workstations are arranged in a way where production can flow continuously—one at a time through each step of the process—from setup until completion.
The most efficient strategy for higher efficiency is to use one piece flow in combination with a cellular layout, wherein all necessary equipment is located in a single area during the cycle of operations. This is simply laying out or setting up all necessary materials or machineries according to the order of their workflow.
One piece flow is also closely related to discrete manufacturing. Discrete manufacturing is the production of distinct items like cars, furniture, electronics (e.g. smartphones and computers) and airplanes. Discrete means “individually separate and distinct,” implying that the product can have different characteristics or can be added with other features as demanded during the process.
Discrete Manufacturing Industries source: Erp-information
Erp-information.com defined it as “a process that produces products in individual, separate pieces” and “a process of production that involves making one product at a time.” According to JD Edwards World Product Data Management in their Discrete Guide, discrete manufacturing supports the following strategies:
There are a lot of sources and experiments where one piece flow is compared with the batch production process. Unlike in one piece flow where each item go one at a time through each step, batch production is a method wherein goods or items are produced by batch, in bulk, or en masse. The goods in batch production have to be finished first before it can be moved to another step. See illustration below:
Batch Production vs One-piece Production source: nikunjbhoraniya
When materials move through the manufacturing process in batches, it can be inefficient. There are additional steps which add to production time. In one piece flow, a product is completed first before beginning with the next item.
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One piece flow has a number of major advantages compared to batch production flow, particularly in terms of waste reduction, manufacturing time reduction, and better process efficiencies. More about its advantages are listed below:
To execute a one piece flow effectively, companies need to have good supporting software or platform. One piece flow promotes continuous improvement of the production line to minimize expenses, reduce waste, and achieve defect-free output. Utilize SafetyCulture a powerful app used by companies involved in industries such as manufacturing, to conduct inspections, monitor operations, and standardize processes. Start digitizing your data collection, communicate with your team faster, and streamline your operations.
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Loida Bauto is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. An Interior Designer by training, she began to pursue her passion for writing in 2017. Her interests involve a diverse range of topics such as Disability, Universal Design, and Sustainability, among other matters that aim to improve the world we live in. She is a self-published book author in 2018 and 2021.
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