Lean Applications: Sequencing

Now let’s talk a little about where you start to see these tools come together.

One of our big examples and role models is The Toyota Production System. They revolutionized JIT techniques by sequencing their manufacturing of automobiles for mixed model production; in other words, they learned how to get into an incredible rhythm manufacturing cars (good cars) that were all different types, and without having big interruptions on the assembly lines.

Their implementation of Lean techniques allows them to effectively produce the correct model of automobile with any of the variations needed to meet changing customer demands. Similar models that require different parts are scheduled for production with the right parts delivered to the assembly points just in time. These techniques can be applied to any production line that (A) produces similar items and (B) knows the frequency of their customer demands.

There is no need to tell customers that they have to wait until you complete a long production run of one type of product before you can produce a similar product. Operations that are process-focused rather than function-focused—with smaller machines and well-trained operators, of course—are usually flexible enough to use sequencing.

If you know today you need to produce 60 Type A items, 40 Type B items, 20 Type C items, and 5 Type D items, which all have the same foundation or base assembly, you can apply sequencing for maximum efficiency. You can make that (or any other) arrangement of different goods on any given day without substantial slowdown or interruption.

Historically, organizations might produce, say, 125 Type As in one day, then 125 Type Bs the next day, and so on until they met the requirements for all types. Aside from creating more storage and logistical difficulty, this method keeps the customers for types C and D waiting for their goods. In today’s market, customers don’t want to wait for their product while your competition is producing goods when the customer wants it—just in time. Sequencing allows you to provide various similar products from one production line in the quantities needed daily.

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