What Is Level Loading In Manufacturing?
In last week’s blog, we introduced to you the concept of the 5S standards and highlighted their Japanese origins. The week before that, we explained the importance of JIT (just-in-time) management and also pointed out its conception in Japan. You may have noticed a bit of a theme here. The Japanese approach to manufacturing places heavy emphasis on waste reduction and efficiency. In this week’s blog, the theme continues.
What Is Heijunka?
Heijunka is a Japanese word meaning “leveling”. It is a concept practiced in the manufacturing industry to help businesses meet their demands while reducing waste during production. It is a Lean manufacturing concept that enables production to efficiently meet customer demands while avoiding unnecessary costs, an overage of manpower and excessive production time.
On iSixSigma.com, Jamie R. Friddle offers an example for clarification: “Say a hat producer receives orders for 500 of the same hat per week: 200 orders on Monday, 100 on Tuesday, 50 on Wednesday, 100 on Thursday, and 50 on Friday. Instead of trying to meet demand in sequence of the orders, the hat producer would use heijunka to level demand by producing an inventory of 100 hats near shipping to fulfill Monday’s orders. Every Monday, 100 hats will be in inventory. The rest of the week, production will make a 100 hats per day – a level amount.”
In North America, heijunka is more commonly referred to as level loading. “Level Loading, also referred to as production leveling, refers to the balanced throughput rates of activities within a process,” explains Quality America., “Balancing a process reduces the non-value added portion of the process cycle time, and removes the waste of items in queue. Level load balancing to reduce waste is a key strategy in Lean thinking.”
What are the benefits of level loading?
By significantly reducing waste and the excess of physical inventories that can result from an absence of level loading, a company can improve its cash flow and lower its costs. Consider the fact that when work goes uncompleted, it can produce no revenue for the manufacturer. Excess inventory can hide the fact that there were issues such as equipment failure or uneven production levels on the floor.
Such inventory exists as “Work in Progress”, explains Quality America. It prevents new orders from being processed until the Work in Progress is completed. Level loading also ensures that a company is able to meet customer demands through either the current inventory or the current production schedule. As well, it ensures that requested delivery dates are met and that appropriate quantities are fulfilled.
What happens in the absence of level loading?
When manufacturers create an abundance of product, much of it is placed on shelves waiting to be ordered by customers. As Demand Solutions clarifies, when the production numbers don’t equate to the average number of orders, it changes the level of service provided to customers.
“In a make-to-stock environment, level of service is sometimes calculated as the percentage of orders picked complete from stock upon receipt of the customer order, the percentage of line items picked complete, or the percentage of total dollar demand picked complete,” they explain on their website, “In make-to-order and -design-to-order environments, level of service is the percentage of times the customer-requested or acknowledged date was met by shipping complete product quantities.”
For more information about how the Flux Connectivity uses level loading during manufacturing, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-557-FLUX or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.