date changes in customer preferences or fluctuations in demand.
Kanban systems use visual triggers to tell a person when to take
action. Buffer systems need to be
established in the same way. The
intent of Kanban and buffers is to
enable and engage people so they
can make timely and informed
One of the hardest parts for
many leaders to understand
about creating continuous flow is
employing the concept in areas
where there is a vast difference in
the task times from one process
to the next. How do you create
flow when one process takes 3
minutes while the next one takes
5 minutes, and a subsequent process only takes 30 seconds?
A good example of time
disparity between process steps
is the finishing department. It
can take 4 minutes to prep-sand
a part, but only 1 minute to stain
the part. Then it might take
3 minutes to scuff-sand it and
another half-minute to spray the
first lacquer coat. After another 3
minutes of final sanding, the part
is ready for a 30-second top coat.
The typical response in this
scenario is to batch parts and do
each step individually.
The downside of batch thinking is that it takes more space
to do a large quantity of parts,
it produces more transport and
motion waste as parts are moved
from carts to saw horses and back
to carts, and continuing in that
manner for every additional step.
Finish departments that employ a
batch method are usually two to
three times larger than they need
to be, which exacerbates trans-
portation waste. Buffer manage-
ment is a better solution.
One perception that finishing
people have is that batching al-
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