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Kill Batch Production - Instead Promote Single-Piece Flow

Cellular Processing is an approach in which equipment and workstations are arranged to facilitate small-lot, continuous-flow production. In a manufacturing "Cell," all operations necessary to produce a component or subassembly are performed in close proximity, thus allowing for quick feedback between operators when quality problems and other issues arise. Workers in a manufacturing cell typically are cross-trained and, therefore, able to perform multiple tasks as needed. Cells also work well in office functions.


Single-Piece-Flow can be described as an ideal state of efficient operations, where batch sizes and lot production are replaced by working on one piece at a time. It is a Lean Enterprise goal to achieve single-piece flow in every operation where possible.

The perfect process consists of a single object transitioning through a series of operations while constantly accumulating value that the customer is willing to pay for.

Typically, the methodology is applied within manufacturing operations but works equally if not better in administrative processes. The problem in administrative processes is that batches are often hidden electronically.

Batching is a natural human tendency for multiple reasons. It could be that a particular process step requires a significant amount of time to conduct a set-up or the task is onerous and people like to defer it to a later time. In the case of administrative instances, workers are constantly being interrupted by co-worker's phone calls, so they collect the most pertinent information and defer the final processing to a quieter time … whenever that may happen.

Achieving one-piece flow requires balancing the process steps to match Takt time. Takt time being available time divided by Customer demand. This means we can define the rate at which the customer can expect a product to be delivered.

WARNING!!! Be careful about balancing the process using only Takt time - you will be in trouble. Once you have calculated the Takt time you need to subtract losses (Quality, Personal Fatigue & Delay (PF&D) etc.) to define your processing time and then use this time to balance the process.

Achieving one-piece flow requires the elimination of waste. As a company reduces these wastes and strives for single-piece flow, many other benefits will follow. Some of these benefits include:

  1. Improved quality and fewer defects

  2. Reduced inventory

  3. Less space required to build a product

  4. Enhancement to overall manufacturing flexibility