Up to this point, we have determined what our customers want, and we have defined our Value Stream. As you will recall from the previous steps, it is important to understand your customer and where they derive value from your organization. You want to ensure you are nailing those steps in your process where they gain the most value.
Now we want to start looking at product flow. More specifically, we want to evaluate how we go from raw material or customer acquisition to finished goods or services. In the previous step, we discussed the Value Stream and the need to eliminate waste. Once we have eliminated waste, we need to focus on ensuring our operation runs smoothly.
It is often difficult to visualize how your product or service flows. But there are many tools you can use to evaluate product flow. Some very easy to implement tools are spaghetti diagrams and process maps. These create great visuals to help you see the lifecycle of your product or service. Always use the tool that is the easiest and cheapest to implement to get the desired result. You typically won’t need complicated software solutions for evaluating product flow.
Once you and your team have identified the current product flow start looking for ways to increase efficiency. Look for those areas where you have transportation waste and evaluate how to better lay out your work centers. Often as a company grows transportation waste begins to creep in. As new equipment is purchased it is placed where there is space rather than where it can improve product flow.
While it is not always feasible, the most efficient product flow is a straight line from raw material storage to the shipping dock. As you evaluate flow, look for quick wins, what work centers can be tweaked or moved to improve flow? Remember, the goal is to meet customer desire in the most efficient manner possible. Increased velocity equals increased customer satisfaction!
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