Single Piece Flow

            This is a pretty important topic.  First of all, in manufacturing, especially when huge volumes of product are produced.  Immediately, we think about a conveyor belt in a line moving products along from one point to another.  Without getting into a whole lot of explaining, the predominantly method of manufacturing is pretty much “batch and cue.”  Matter of fact a lot of the companies refer to these jobs as batches.  To give us an idea of what this is, let’s use the restaurant analogy, but instead of a fancy steak restaurant, let’s imagine a greasy spoon where truckers are likely stop by.  The cook on Wednesdays scrambles eggs for about 15 truckers because for the past year or so, 15 truckers would come in and order like clockwork, scrambled eggs.  It was a good routine and he profited from it.  Well it so happens old Jake (the cook) went to a party, got hammered, and came home late ending up at work with a strong hang over.  Early in the morning he proceeds to cook his scrambled eggs for 15 truckers and gets them ready for the waitress to start slapping plates down only to hear Wayleen the waitress asking old Jake, “What the hell are you doing?” 
Jake responded, “Well it’s Wednesday and I’ve got to get breakfast ready.” 
“Well if it were Wednesday!  Today’s Tuesday!” she said.
            Big boo boo on Jake’s part to batch 15 orders of scrambled eggs with no one to buy.  He might be lucky if several customers within the next 10 minutes order ordering scrambled eggs; otherwise, adios muchachos on the webos.
            The production line schedules big batches that are premade; and, when the scheduler in this case, the waitress calls out an order, the products are pushed through.  That’s why it’s called PUSH manufacturing since orders are being “pushed” through the line.
            SINGLE PIECE FLOW or PULL manufacturing is when a product is made from start to finish, like on a conveyor belt, the widget assembled as the belt moves from one end to the other.
            Here, Wayleen goes to a customer sitting in a booth and asks, “What’ll you have honey?”
            The customer says, “Two fried eggs hard over, two bacon, hash brown and wheat toast.”
            Wayleen writes the order down and yells at old Jake, “A number two on table five!”
            Five minutes later the customer gets his breakfast, made to order (on time defects and hassle free). 
            This is an example of PULL manufacturing.
            Another example that many single business operators are guilty of:  I like using my wife as an example because she tells me this story time after time.  This is a story where my wife gets a call from her mother to purchase an order from one of the shopping channels.  She goes to the computer and fires it up.  While she waits, she decides to open up the drapes.  The drapes are dirty, so she goes to the cleaning supply cabinet to pull out the dust spray and cleaning cloth.  The cleaning cloth is dirty so she throws it in the dirty hamper.  She sees that the hamper is full, so she takes it to the washing machine and loads it.  She looks for the detergent and finds that she’s run out and heads back to the cleaning supply cabinet to pull out the spare supply.  She then goes to the cork board to write down “detergent” on the shopping list, drops the pen and finds that the floor needs mopping.  So she takes the cleaning bucket out and sweeps and mops the floor.  She has extra cleaning solvent in the bucket, so she decides to clean the bathrooms.  Her back starts hurting, so she takes a couple of pills to find out that she’s running low, so she pulls out her smart phone and places an order on line.  She sees that she’s got messages from her sister and daughter that prompts her to make calls to them.  In about an hour she’s done with the calls and begins to take the cleaning supplies back to the cabinet.  As she begins this task, she gets a call from her mother asking if the order was placed.
            See what happened here? 
            As a business single person operator, we can get lost in a myriad of activities that take us away from what we need to do to earn a living.
            I’ve heard it especially from single moms who have to take care of children while trying to operate a part time business.  I’m not one to cast aspersions; matter of fact, I think that women who are great mommies and run successful part time businesses are super extra ordinary, if not super women.  It’s just that it’ll take discipline, courage and strong time study skills to ensure a single piece flow method of meeting customer demands. 
            Any less can still result to levels of successes, but it sure would be a lot easier if a project started is not stopped till the end.
            That’s single piece flow.  Think about our own circumstances, and determine what we can do to accommodate this process.

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