Production flow is often call mass production, repetitive flow production, or series production. Production flow uses production lines to continually move large amount of items through the production process. Each product will have the same amount of time dedicated to it on the production line in order to keep the process moving smoothly. This also means that once one product has been produced, the next product must begin production immediately following the completed one.
Quite often production flow is used for car manufacturing where the doors, wheels, bonnets, and engines are all added to a chassis as it moves along an assembly line. Production flow is used for companies who want to produce a high volume of the same item. Henry Ford used production flow when he produced the Ford Model T car in the early 1900's.
In fact, Ford was a late developer of production flow. Production flow was first developed in Venice hundreds of years earlier. The Venice Arsenal used production lines to assemble nearly one ship a day. This made the Venice Arsenal the world's first factory. Production flow became increasingly popular when Johannes Gutenberg published the Bible on a printing press in the mid 1400's. Guns were mass produced during the American Civil War by the Springfield Armory. Also during this time, watches were mass produced as well. As you can see, production flow has been around for hundreds of years.
Production flow became increasingly popular in the American system of manufacturing because it was new, sophisticated machinery that relied on electricity, versus steam power. Production flow is one of the leading reasons for the boom in the American economy in the early 1900's.
How does Production Flow work?
Production flow works by using moving tracks (conveyer belts) to move partially completed products to workers who will do repetitive tasks to the product and it will continue to move on down the line. Production flow allows for high rates of production per worker and allows for a high volume of inexpensive products to be produced. Production flow does require the use of machinery and many times, workers are only required to provide maintenance to the machine. Production flow is so successful because it has fewer labor costs and a faster rate of production. This means your capital will increase while over overall expenditure will decrease.
Helpful Resources: Wikipedia
Wikipedia provides a good definition of production flow. It discusses the history of mass production with companies like Ford and how mass production worked during the civil war. It also discusses the advantages and disadvantages of mass production.
Advantages and Disadvantages
This web site discusses the advantages and disadvantages to the production flow method. It provides information about some companies who use production flow and how it works at their facility.
Increasing Production Flow
This is a question and answer web site about production flow. Several business people have asked questions as to how they can increase production flow at their company and they are provided with suggestions.
Production Flow Matrices
If you are looking for production flow matrices, this is an excellent web site. It discusses the different aspects involved in production flow and what companies do to make it successful.
Production Flow Chart
This web site discusses how you can make a production flow chart. It is an excellent source of information for anyone who wants to see how a production flow assembly line works.
Saturn Corporation's Production Flow
Saturn Corporation uses production flow in their car manufacturing process. This web site provides a brief overview of Saturn and other large manufacturing companies and how they used production flow.
Services for Production Flow Companies
Oracle provides services to companies who are using production flow. They provide information on how they can implement a production flow chart to help your company yield higher profits and lower costs.
Tips on Managing Production Flow
Toolbase provides customers with tips on how to manage your production flow. They provide you with production flow charts and provide ways to help you manage you flow production process.
Definition of Flow Production
This is an excellent definition of flow production. You can read about the advantages and disadvantages of flow production and how companies are implementing different strategies to make it work.
The initial investment in production flow is quite expensive. The machinery used for production flow requires a large price tag. You want to be sure that there is some assurance that your product will be successful in order for you to gain a return on the investment you are making. Some factories use robots and other large production machines that can extend the cost of your initial investment. The installation cost needs to be considered as well when you are looking at production flow. This is why production flow is often used by large manufacturing companies who have a large customer base. The demand for the product must justify the investment in the machinery.
The workers who run the machines require no additional training on how each part must be assembled. The machine itself has jigs and gauge blocks to ensure the part is made to fit the particular set up. Before a part is assembled by a machine, it will already be checked to ensure that the finished part will be able to fit into all the other finished parts. This will save your company time and money since you won't need a worker to check every single detail before it is assembled. Typically, each machine only makes on specific part and it is passed down the production line to the next machine.
Usually production flow systems are organized into assembly lines that use a conveyor belt or an overhead monorail. Complex products usually require the use of several feeding sub-assemblies. Car engines usually require the use of feeding sub-assembly lines. It has been described that a mass-production factory looks like the "skeleton of a fish than a single line".
The Advantages of Flow Production.
Reducing costs is always the main goal of many companies. Flow production allows for a high number of products to be produced with little manual labor. Another benefit to flow production is that it can be used overnight, on weekends, and holidays. Flow production is capital intensive. The reduction of nonproductive efforts yields tremendous benefits to several companies. A good example of how flow production cuts costs is to think of a seamstress. She must make all the clothes she sells by hand, this requires her getting various fabrics and other tools together and then spend time assembling them. In flow production, each worker would repeat the same task or a few related tasks and use the same tools each time. This will provide near to identical results each time. The worker on the assembly line spends very little or no time finding all the necessary tools and this cuts the time it takes one seamstress to make one jacket literally in half. Now, this scenario cannot be applied to other types of flow production. Again, the use of machinery drastically reduces the probability of human error and variation. If the reduction in labor cost alone doesn't sway you toward flow production, then surely the increased rate of production, which leads to increased sales will convince you.
The Disadvantages of Flow Production.
Of course with every advantage, there has to be a disadvantage. The main disadvantage companies run into with flow production is that there is so much machinery that it becomes quite difficult to alter the production process. The products produced must be very similar or standardized and will not be made to individual preference. Of course, you can always offer some variety in the form of color or decorations, but the products are usually inflexible.
Another disadvantage to flow production is when a machine has a malfunction, and it is not corrected immediately, your entire production line can be shut down for the amount of time it takes to repair the problem. Several mass production machines come with warning systems that inform the worker that a problem is occurring and it needs to be rectified. This will allow you enough time to move the product to another assembly line while you fix the problem.
Companies who use Flow Production.
Flow production is often used by businesses who can justify their investment in the machinery by providing a product that is in high demand. Some of these companies include:
Ford Motor Company
- Mars Bars
- Heinz baked beans
- Kellogg's Corn Flakes
Several of these companies create production flow charts. Flow charts show companies how the products will flow through the assembly line and what will happen during times of high demand. A good flow chart should also provide information on high inventory and work in progress because they increase costs and reduce the profitability of your business. Production flow charts can help to produce a plan to change the way an organization currently works and implement proper delegation and control systems. The goal of a production flow chart should be to reduce inventory, deliver quality products, and increase the overall production and profitability of your business.
Production Flow Chart.
Again, a production flow chart should include a quantitative analysis of all the materials that will flow through the facility. Using the current system, a new production flow chart will alter the way assembly lines feed into one another and set levels on how assembly lines can produce a steady flow of materials. Here are some guidelines you will need when you are setting up your production flow chart:
Identify and classify all the production resource such as the machines, equipment, and manual labor involved.
- Track all the product or part routes that the factory produces.
- Analyze the main flows of the assembly lines and how the majority of the parts flow through them.
- Study alternate methods of routing and grouping products to fit them into a simplified flow system.
- Validate how the new flow system will work compared to the existing one. Will it yield greater production amounts? How will it work with scheduling and inventory?
Production flow charts reveal how products are naturally grouped and how organic growth can have a direct impact on your production flow. Typically products have experienced several changes in order to keep up with the demand of the consumer. A production flow chart should take into account how the product will measure up in the next 5 to 10 years. What changes will need to be made to the machinery in order to produce satisfactory results to the consumer? You should anticipate change when you create a production flow chart. In management, operations, and even human resources, a flow chart will affect everyone. It may be the delivery of the product of the motivation of your workers. No matter what you decide to include on your production flow chart, be sure you anticipate results that are achievable.