[Part 1] The Problem

Over time manufacturing companies develop a large number of different products and services. Sounds obvious, but here’s the problem. As new products are launched, the old ones don’t go away, and the product list continues to grow. These products are often similar, but with enough differences to mess things up. So here’s the question: how do you build many different products without wasting floor space, lowering productivity, or having to invest millions in additional equipment and tooling?


The answer is an industrial engineering methodology called Mixed Model Line Design.

Mixed Model Line Design cherry-picks the best parts of Lean and Six Sigma then combines them with Industrial Design to create world-class production lines and value streams.

So here’s our definition. A Mixed Model line can produce a variety of different products on the same line, without sacrificing productivity, space, inventory, quality, or manufacturing lead-time.

There are two types of Mixed Model lines. In the first, the different models are truly mixed, meaning that every product coming down the line could be different from the one in front or the one behind. An example of this is the industrial equipment industry, where it’s not uncommon for each product to require customization.

The second type of Mixed Model line builds products in small batches or order quantities. This is necessary in cases where it would be difficult to truly mix. Examples of this include pharmaceuticals, aerospace products, very high mix and low volume environments, and cases where a high level of traceability of work and materials is required.

One thing to keep in mind: Mixed Modeling is not a good fit for every company. In video 2 of this 10-part series, we’ll be asking if Mixed Modeling is a good fit for you as a process improvement specialist. You’ll also be able to download a Mixed Model assessment, to help you decide.

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