What is One-piece Flow?

One-piece flow, also called continuous flow, refers to the way products move from one step in the process to the next—moving them efficiently by planning workflow based on the product and its needs, instead of the organization or equipment. We use a river analogy to explain flow. The goal of the water is to get from point A to point B. Any waste or stoppage in work is like the boulders and dams that divert the water. When looking to implement flow, we look at our layouts, machines, processes, policies, culture, and knowledge to see what may be creating these blocks for flow.  

How Does Continuous Flow Reduce Waste?

Continuous flow helps reduce waste, specifically waiting, processing, and overproduction. Waiting waste is removed from the system because there is rhythm and balance between each step of the process. This allows each team member to be able to add value instead of creating waste. Processing waste is reduced because there is inherently less rework (or over-processing), only the amount of effort that the customer is willing to pay for is being accomplished (less under-processing), and there is one agreed-upon way to do the work (no bad processing). 

How Do We Incorporate One-piece Flow Into Our Process?

We aim for flow in all the work we do from order entry to delivery. To achieve flow, we identify standard work, or the steps, and time each small step. We then try to balance the work between the team members to be close to balanced. Next, we identify how much buffer we should have between steps to account for variability. Lastly, we incorporate pull signals to tell us when to work and when to stop working. 

Learn More About Continuous Flow 

If you are interested in learning more about JIT production and our journey with continuous improvement, we would love to hear from you. 

We are a teaching factory. We choose to share what we have learned about Kaizen and other continuous improvement principles with other businesses and organizations through our Kaas Waste Tours, which we host in our living, breathing manufacturing facility in Mukilteo, Washington.

At Kaas Tailored, we talk a lot about continuous improvement as a culture. We use words like Bit, Standard Work, and Kaizen, which can feel confusing if you are just starting your journey. We have put together a small series that explains how we think and talk about reducing waste within our company so that you can have the vocabulary to start identifying waste within your world. Then, we can work together to help you start your own journey of continuous improvement.