Improve Efficiency with One Piece Flow

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Improve Efficiency with One Piece Flow

One Piece FlowBPG Lean training includes an activity to illustrate the benefits of utilizing “One Piece Flow” and “Work Balance.” We use a robot assembly company as our simulated business and have each student participate as a specific role, including members of the assembly line and supervisors. The project is based on the complete assembly of 5 robots…because we love playing with Legos!

Assembly #1

The first time the robots are assembled, each person has to find their own materials based on the instruction sheet provided for their role in the assembly. During this first go-around, all 5 robots are completed at each phase of the assembly before they can all be handed off to the next person in the assembly process. Each person sits at a separate table and passes his/her completed work to the next station after he/she checks for their own quality of work on each robot.

One Piece FlowDuring a recent class, these were the results of the first assembly:

  • Station #1 took 6 minutes
    • (2 minutes to get materials)
  • Station #2 took 3 minutes
    • (1 minute to get materials)
  • Station #3 took 6 minutes
    • (2:40 to get materials)
  • Station #4 took 5 minutes and 30 seconds
    • (30 seconds to get materials)
  • Station #5 took 2:30 for a grand total of 23 minutes. 

Assembly #2 – One Piece Flow

One Piece FlowWe then make a couple changes to the process, allowing the team to sit together and progress through the assembly one robot at a time rather than requiring all 5 to be complete before sending them on; this system is called One Piece Flow. These changes reduced the assembly time to 5:04 (which was a 400% improvement in efficiency!)

Assembly #3 – Work Balance

The last iteration included letting the team make their improvements to the process, called Work Balance. They decided to help each other when they had completed or were waiting for their tasks to happen. This further improved the process and reduced completion time to 4:30.

How can your business benefit from improving efficiency?

One Piece FlowThe main reason for making these changes is to be able to produce more quality products in less time, reducing costs and improving profitability. These principals can be utilized in any business. Many of these changes are based on reducing the 8 wastes.

 Defects, Scrap, Rework
 Overproduction
 Waiting
 Not Fully Utilizing People
 Transportation
 Inventory
 Motion
 Excess Processing

Here are some ideas for using these methodologies in your business:

  • Get your employees to contribute ideas on how to improve your processes. Your employees have hands-on experience in your business. Encourage them to contribute ideas.
  • Reduce the amount of time it takes to move from one step to the other. A major change within your business, like new construction or renovation, might not be feasible, but making small changes can make a big impact, so don’t disregard even little adjustments.
  • Time your processes to know how long they are taking currently.
  • Map out your area to see if you can eliminate movement between steps.
  • Adopt a One Piece Flow system wherever possible to save time between stations.

If you have any questions about One Piece Flow, Work Balance, the 8 Wastes or any other Lean methodologies, contact Paul Gormas by email: