When you think of the term “Line Design”, what probably comes to mind is a new line design project. This could be a “greenfield” project on a brand new production line, or a “brownfield” redesign of an existing one. But let’s face it, these opportunities don’t come along very often, so the chance to apply MMLD methods and skills might seem to be limited. I want to disavow you of that idea, by opening your eyes to the limitless potential of applying Mixed Model to Kaizen or continuous improvement projects which (hopefully) are going on all of the time in your company.
OK, so you don’t have a major line design project on the calendar, but your existing production environment could always be improved, right? Here’s an idea: start with the process closest to the customer, and create a “Future State” design based on Mixed Model principles. You can still use the same methodology, but just apply it to that one process. Why start at the end? Because when you are done, this new process is going to really flow, and you don’t want to put it behind a process that doesn’t flow as well, and which it is not balanced. Your new process is a racehorse. Don’t put the racehorse behind a donkey.
Once you have a paper design of the Future State, go ahead and document the Current State using VSM, or simply create a deployment plan. You can then schedule the implementation as a Kaizen Event or series of Kaizen Events. Once you’ve completed this first project and process, move upstream and do the next one. Rinse and repeat.
This structured approach to Kaizen has a lot going for it compared to a traditional approach using Value Stream Mapping to identify “Kaizen Bursts” or improvement projects. The problem with the traditional approach is that improvements are not based on an ideal Future State, but rather on Lean philosophical goals like the elimination of waste. Which is better: making home improvements based on a “to do” list of items you want to work on, or making home improvements based on a carefully thought through design, created by a competent architect? I think most of you would vote for the second choice, and chances are better that you’ll end up with a great result.
We did an hour-long webinar on this subject recently, so if you’d like to learn more about using the Mixed Model Line Design method for Kaizen Events, you can click here to view the full video.