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Three reasons to optimize your material flow and trim it to the SmartFlow effect

Like companies in other sectors, companies in the manufacturing industry are also exposed to constant competitive pressure. Whether they are national or international players - everyone is trying to increase their influence on the market. In addition, there are external factors that cannot be influenced themselves, such as delivery problems, resource bottlenecks or the like. To this end, processes are automated, communication is optimized and new technologies à la Industrie 4.0 are integrated.

But despite all the optimization of processes, one thing should not be forgotten - the flow of materials. This ultimately determines the production volume, i.e. literally what comes out at the end and becomes cash. In this article, we will give you three reasons why you should optimize your material flow.

Material flow - Not just faster, but better.

Optimizing the material flow by no means means increasing the pure speed of the production plant. Rather, the focus should go further into detail - on the material flow between the processes and the respective buffer stores. At the end of the day, there is no point in improving one part of the production line if the rest of the production cannot cope with the new speed and the balance in the overall production is thrown out of whack. 

So if you plan to increase the speed at one point in your production, make sure that

  1. the quality of your parts remains at the same level.
  2. the upstream and downstream processes can keep up.
  3. short-term failures are included in the design.
  4. due to enough buffer storage the stoppage of the bottleneck is prevented.
  5. overproduction is avoided.

Avoid overproduction in the material flow

Overproduction is one of the seven major types of waste in classic lean production. To list them all is worth a separate article. However, overproduction is not only about the finished end pieces to resell, but also about overproduction in the middle of the material flow. Excessive stores of semi-finished workpieces before and after the individual processes tie up capital and make it difficult for employees to keep track. Optimizing individual steps without considering the entire production line can also lead to short-term production stoppages due to no or too few buffers - especially in the case of bottlenecks. Both have a negative impact on the entire process.

Three reasons to optimize your material flow.

But now we come to the reasons why the material flow should be urgently included in the optimization of the production plant. Even if it sounds like old hat or like an unimportant thing compared to new communication methods between machines, this fundamental step is a powerful lever for maintaining the competitiveness of manufacturing companies.

Reason 1: It increases overall productivity

Now, many are sure to ask themselves directly whether this cannot also be achieved by more modern methods, such as intelligently networking the individual machines in order to obtain an optimal production process. Of course, new systems from the field of Industry 4.0 can make this possible, but it must not be assumed that this is the only true key to success. New communication systems from i4.0 can only be used optimally if the basic homework is done, because if the individual systems are poorly coordinated with each other in terms of material flow, the smartest networking will be of no use and the overall performance of the production line will remain unsatisfactory.

If, on the other hand, the focus is placed on optimizing the material flow, the work in progress (WIP) is automatically optimized, which results in a shorter lead time and also leads to an increase in throughput. All without new technical tools. A sustainable increase in productivity with the help of simple, basic craftsmanship.

Reason 2: Employees are relieved

The second reason starts in a different place, but is even more important than the first. The health of the employees in the company is the highest asset of every manager. Stressed employees are dissatisfied, get sick more quickly and do not bring the performance to the production line that they actually could.

By optimizing the material flow and thus reducing the partial inventory, lead times are shortened and throughput is increased. This in turn automatically leads to a simplification of the entire logistics in the company, which logically has an effect on the work and stress level of the employees in logistics.

Reason 3: Prepared for future challenges

Digitization, in particular, has given the world another major boost. Production cycles are becoming shorter and shorter, which is why today's innovations can already be obsolete tomorrow. With a view to the manufacturing industry, planning for more flexible production environments is becoming increasingly important, but also more difficult. It is therefore all the more essential to start with the material flow basics. If the material flow of your own production line is optimized to this extent, you are in a position and have the freedom to open up to new technological conditions without having to fear that this will again have a negative influence on the entire production.

Accordingly, an optimal material flow leads to more peace of mind as well as security in the planning of one's own production environment and the more successful implementation of new technologies (Industry 4.0).  

Conclusion: SmartFlow Effect for better material flow

Finally, the question arises as to what the right process for optimized material flow looks like. This question can be described with one simple word: SmartFlow Effect.

This involves a hybrid combination of

  • Kanban,
  • Constant Work in Process (CONWIP)
  • and Theory of Constrains (ToC).

With the synthesis of these three components, a constant and low inventory level is maintained within the production line, thus reducing the lead time within production. The ToC additionally ensures that production losses are minimized in the process.

Would you like to learn more about the SmartFlow effect? Read here or contact us. We would be happy to show you the advantages of this method.  

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