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Our top tips on adding more flexibility to the work floor

Flexibility is the capacity to adjust to short-term change, quickly and positively. In a world that is changing in a fast pace, it’s now more important than ever to be flexible. Because when you’re flexible, you’re versatile, resilient and fit for the future.

There is a lot to think of when trying to improve your productivity as a manufacturer. How to maximize productivity. Assemble great quality products and keep everything affordable at the same time. Customers expect mass-customized variants of your product but also tailored to their own requirements. How to achieve all this? You guessed it right. Being flexible. In this blog we are going to share our top tips for adding more flexibility to the work floor.

Getting started

The first step in adding flexibility is to start rethinking underlying manufacturing processes, business processes, and ways of working. The next step is embedding the conditions and key drivers for change and agility into your daily operations. In other words: standardize flexibility in your assembly processes and make it easy for operators to deal with variety.

A great way to incorporate flexibility into your standard manufacturing processes is the use of pick-to-light or pick-to-beam tools we mentioned in our blog How to be more productive as a factory. Operators can start assembling without a lengthy traineeship to learn about the trade, which saves time and money.

How we envision a flexible manufacturing floor

As our brain has the ability to process images more quickly, we have drawn up a floor plan for you. This plan shows you exactly how transforming your assembly process using LCIA  (Low Cost Intelligent Automation), could lead to more productivity and flexibility.

How it works

As you can see in the image above, the operators are at the heart of the assembly process. All of the machines and stations are arranged in the proper order around them. This eliminates unnecessary walking and reduces non-value-added time and activities. Supplying parts and materials is done from the rear of each station, outside of the line. This way the operators working inside the line are not interrupted.

Process flow

All products can essentially follow the same general assembly process, but they don’t all require the same assembly steps (shown as blue, red and green lines). When the assembly line is properly arranged, they can all follow a similar path, but for certain products some assembly steps may be skipped (shown as dashed lines).

Operators in control

The U-shape of the line makes it easy for the operators to have an overview and to communicate with each other. You can simply see the progress of each product in the line, based on its location. The amount of WIP (Work In Progress) in the line is fixed. The operator that finishes a product and sends it out of the line, is the same operator that starts a new product using one-piece flow.

Stay flexible

An assembly line arranged like this can be operated by one, two or three operators depending on the required output. Operators can work the same part of the line continuously if they want, but it is preferable to switch roles regularly to ensure their flexibility in working in different parts of the line.