Understanding “Flow” in Manufacturing

Flow is a further refinement on Pull, where you are moving units one at a time, based on customer orders, and also based on a Pull signal.

Let’s go back to our sandwich making example, and look at an example of Flow.

Examples of Flow

In the Flow scenario you don’t make any sandwiches until the customer comes in the door and gives you their order. You are then organized to build that sandwich quickly, and in a highly customized way if desired. As before, you will need to have the ingredients on hand ahead of time.

When the customer arrives, you take the order, usually verbally, and fill the order on the spot. You may even staff up during busy times, so that customers are not waiting too long.

Keep the ingredients stocked, and repeat this process one sandwich at a time.

Here’s what you can expect as a result:

  1. You end the day with zero sandwiches, for certain, since you only made them to order.
  2. Consequently there are no left-overs.
  3. Each sandwich is 100% fresh, and not made even a little bit ahead of time.

Subway and a lot of other outlets do it this way. And frankly, this way definitely has its benefits, if you can do it. This is what we call FLOW.

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