The Batching Myth:
You’re stuffing envelopes. You have 500 letters to fold, envelopes to stuff and seal, stamps to stick, and addresses to write. You’ve got 2 other people to help you and you delegate tasks accordingly.
You all want to get it done as quickly as possible. Your intuition tells you that if you fold them all at once, then stuff them all at once, etc, the work will go faster. Right?
Wrong. A key lesson in Process Improvement is that batching slows down production. This runs counter to “how we’ve always done it,” but the evidence is clear. Here’s why:
- You reduce the excessive motion waste that’s caused from moving batches to and from storage and to the next steps
- You produce finished products faster, which heightens morale and gives people a sense of accomplishment early
- Your customer gets the finished product in their hands faster than if they have to wait for an entire batch.
- No one is waiting around. With batching, workers down the line spend much of their time idle and waiting for the previous steps to be completed.
What’s your Takt Time :
Decreasing the completion time for a task or process is at the heart of Process Improvement. We can’t do it unless we’re brutal with waste. When we work in batches, a couple things happen that increase our overall production time:
- Workers who are down the production line are idle while the batch slowly makes its way from one step to the other.
- Batching leads to inventory build up, while single-piece-flow is conducive to customer-pulled production
Small improvements add up to big savings. Switching to single-piece-flow, and eliminating all the wastes of batch processing, can speed up your production time by a whopping 30%.
Cash is king, and faster production times mean that you get paid sooner. Having quicker cash flow can open new options for your company about how to grow.
More than Manufacturing:
While “Lean” is often thought of as a manufacturing concept, its concept applies to every industry. Bankers, builders, butchers and beauticians all need to eliminate waste to be profitable. Every industry, whether making widgets, performing tasks or dealing with files, have the choice to batch or not to batch.
While single-piece flow saves time, it often requires a significant cultural shift to embrace it. The batching instinct is engrained in our collective corporate ethos. It takes significant managerial will to commit to making the changes necessary to fundamentally shift practice.
Once achieved, however, single-piece-flow yields lower inventories and storage, increased flexibility, less defects, and higher overall morale.