Understanding Single Piece Flow

One of the first concepts that pops up when learning about lean is single piece flow.  This is a great concept and should be considered when it is appropriate.  Cooking my french fries might not be the time to use single piece flow, but downloading songs may be.

My wife runs a small business of her own.  She sells products online through her website and Etsy as well as events in our local area.  Selling online and brick-n-mortar poses problems from time to time.  One issue is wanting to provide a wide range of scents for customers, but not having large amounts of inventory on-hand because of the batch process of making the soaps in loaves.

mens_shave_soapAfter a year and a half, we think we find a solution to this issue.  Most of her requests for custom scents come through her online sales.  Typically, she has the fragrance available but can’t justify making 8 bars in a batch because the other 7 may sit for a year or longer.  She has found a mold that works very well and is the size she needs that allows her to make one soap at a time.  My wife can now fulfill the requests of her customers and offer more fragrances to her line in her online shop without the expense of carrying a year’s worth of finished product.

What about the live events to sell the inventory?

Good question.  The events are always in the Sept – Dec time frame.  So, if a customer orders a special scent in January, the rest of the finished goods would sit until September at the earliest.  She could have used the raw materials for other products.  The soaps that are high volume sellers and do well at the live events can be made in batches right before the event.  Any finished product that is leftover after the event season can be sold online.

It is a good mix of using single piece flow and batch processing when it best fits the situation.  It is about understanding your business needs and trying to meet those needs.  Not forcing everything to one solution whether if fits or not.

What makes sense for your business?

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Posted on January 14, 2013, in Customer Focus, Manufacturing, Problem Solving, Tools, Waste and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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