Mixed Model Manufacturing is not something that’s totally new, and many companies and industries are doing this. They may not use the term “Mixed Model” but the principles are the same. Let’s take a look at some of these industries and companies, starting with the mother-ship, Toyota.
Toyota makes a variety of different products, and in different volumes, but the automotive industry is the classic example of Mixed Model Manufacturing. The Toyota automotive plants, or any automotive plant, are quite highly automated, but they are building a variety of different models, with different options, on the same production line. As we discussed earlier, there are limits to mixing, so don’t expect everything to go down the same line, even at Toyota!
Similar to the automotive industry, but with much lower volumes, is the agricultural equipment and industrial vehicle industry: tractors, fork trucks, material handling tuggers, agricultural implements, construction equipment like front-end loaders, etc.
Another industry where we’ve applied the Mixed Model method is in industrial equipment. industrial fans, pumps, air conditioning, electric motors, control panels: all of these are good examples. For a while our co-Founder, Gerard Leone, and I were the Air Conditioning Kings for Mixed Model Line Design, since we seemed to be going from one air conditioning plant to another.
The aerospace industry, and aerospace suppliers, are another good example but in a different way. Aerospace suppliers in particular are “high-mix low-volume” environments. They often have a large number of different products, but they don’t produce high quantities of any one product. The mixing that takes place in these companies is mostly at the order level, instead of mixing individual units on the project line. A big challenge in this industry is in achieving good work-flow, given the presence of shared processes and inherently batch processes like an Autoclave.
In general, the manufacturing done today, especially in the US and Europe, has become much more Mixed Model than in prior decades. There are a few reasons for this: the variety of different products has grown tremendously, the concept of Mass Customization has gained some traction, and very high volume repetitive manufacturing has often moved to lower-wage parts of the world. But even this is no longer as true as it used to be, so that Mixed Modeling is needed and practiced anywhere in the world.
I probably left your industry out, but the list of Mixed Model industries is long, so please accept my apology. You can check out a list of companies we have working with or trained in the past by clicking here…see if your company is on the list!