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Continuous Flow

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Definition

Continuous or one-piece flow eliminates all waste in a process by improving the movement of material or information through a process. This is in contrast to the traditional batch-and-queue processing setup which causes extra handling and buildup of work-in-process (WIP). Reducing cycle time requires achieving a more continuous flow, which in turn requires a reduction in lot size to more closely match the pace of demand with the pace of production. Achieving continuous flow of either materials or information requires a combination of conditions and activities: reducing the lot size (batch size) as close to one as possible.

The tools to improve flow are:
Quick Changeover
Lot Size Reduction
Cellular Production
Late Point Differentiation
Line Balancing
Variability Reduction

Application

Several benefits of continuous flow processing are:

• Increased throughput.
• Shorter cycle times.
• Identifies and eliminates bottlenecks and waste.
• Reduces the physical distance over which the process travels.
• Lower inventory levels.

See Also

Just-In-Time
Value Stream Mapping
Little's Law
Quick Changeover
Standardized Work
Cellular Design