October 1, 2022

Heijunka and the connected worker

One of the major problems faced by manufacturing companies is uneven batch production. Manufacturing huge quantities of a single product might save some money for the manufacturer but it can lead to excess production that takes up valuable warehouse space, costs money for storage, and in the end, might not even sell. One of the keys ways of overcoming this situation is a Japanese philosophy called Heijunka or Production Leveling. Successful implementation of Heijunka reduces lead time, inventory waste and reduces psychological and physical stress related to intensely fluctuating workloads. In this article we will look at the relationship between Heijunka and the connected worker to show how connected worker technology can empower manufacturers to take Heijunka to the next level.

What is Heijunka or Production Leveling?

Heijunka, which means “leveling” in Japanese, forms the base of the lean production methodology along with Kaizen and Standardized work. Lean Manufacturing was created as part of the innovative Toyota Production system. The main aim of Heijunka is to maintain a constant production level that is more efficient in meeting customer demands, reducing waste, save valuable production time and saving money for the company as compared to batch production.

Several lean experts say that production leveling or Heijunka is best implemented at later stages of the lean process after non-value-adding steps and possible improvements in the entire value stream that have already been identified and refined.

When implemented correctly, Heijunka levels product demand and provides predictability, decreases changeover times to provide flexibility, and standardizes the production volume and type to provide stability throughout the production process.

Key Concepts for Heijunka

  • Takt Time: Takt time is the total time taken for a manufacturing company to complete a product, fulfill orders, and meet customer demand.
  • Volume Leveling: Manufacturing is done, according to Heijunka, as per average customer demand over a long term and some buffer inventory is kept for any slight variability in demand, stability of the production process, or shipping speeds.
  • Type Leveling: Instead of making huge batches of a product a day, different products can be manufactured in small batches every day. Some products can be kept in reserve for changeover flexibility as well. A Heijunka box can be used to visualize the production flow and schedule.
  • Heijunka Box: This is a working schematic of how production scheduling and type leveling work in lean production.
  • Work Slowly and Consistently: Workers should work slowly but consistently as it ensures that less waste is generated during the process in the shop floor and the production continues at a constant rate rather than starting and stopping frequently.
  • Changeover Time: Changeover time is a measure of how long it takes a production line or production equipment to transition from working on one product to another. An efficient changeover time acts as the fulcrum for production leveling and low changeover times help companies in streamlining their value stream.
  • Buffer Inventory: Having a buffer inventory of already manufactured products ready to be shipped at the start of a production cycle makes it easier to maintain demand and production levels at a consistent rate. It also helps in minimizing any resource wastage.
  • Type Standardization: Since different products are being manufactured every day, the company and its workers will gradually become more knowledgeable about every product and not just the one that is manufactured during their shift. This knowledge can be shared easily among workers for the benefit of the organization.

How Can Connected Worker Platforms Improve Heijunka?

Following Heijunka or production leveling can help companies create a base for lean manufacturing but relying on traditional paper-based processes can become a hindrance.  Incorporating modern Industry 4.0 technologies such as a Connected Worker platform can help in improving the manufacturing process and make it more efficient with the assistance of digital tools. Here’s how:

1. Enhancing Stability for Heijunka

A Connected Worker Platform can help standardize work execution across different product types and volumes through digitization. Every step in a production sequence is time-stamped to make sure that a worker is completing all the required steps. You can also demand photographic or video evidence for step completion. Management can then analyze the job completion data to improve upon the processes, making the workflow more agile and standardized, and empower production leveling to meet customer demand.

2. Enhances Predictability for Production Levelling

Now that workers and managers know how much time it takes to complete a process or production of a certain product, they can accurately predict when a customer order can be fulfilled. Companies can then use Just-in-Time or JIT manufacturing, another lean concept, to reduce the Takt Time, wastage of resources, as well as overproduction waste. Production can occur in small batches with increased efficiency due to the use of digital tools to make sure workers can adhere to schedules.

3. Improves Flexibility for Heijunka

Front Line Worker Platforms increase the visibility of different processes happening on the production floor with digital technologies for work execution and data collection. With every product being made, management gains increased knowledge about different types and volumes of products to be manufactured.

This knowledge helps them in decreasing the changeover time from one product to another and gives manufacturers the flexibility to deal with a volatile market and changing customer demands. The quality of visual, contextual rich instructions allows workers to easily go from one product to another.  This is a crucial element of how Heijunka and the connected worker work hand in hand. Atheer empowers companies to schedule recurring tasks to the right worker with the right instructions. This is in turn reduces changeover time.

Atheer for Achieving Heijunka

Atheer helps manufacturing companies improve their efficiency and bottom lines by successfully implementing Heijunka or production leveling. Atheer’s AR-powered Front Line Worker Platform enables the frontline teams to work faster, better, and safer while ensuring there is no delay in production and production can continue at a steady pace.

Atheer’s Connected Worker Platform is a suite of modern digital tools that some of the leading industrial enterprises of the world use to stay on top of their production process and reduce waste as much as possible. The Connected Worker Platform can timestamp every process executed by the frontline teams and elevate standardizing the entire process through improved proof of job completion, step specific highly contextual instruction and visual, easy to understand training to reduce human error.

Want to know how Atheer can help you with production leveling? Contact us and book a free demo today.

Micki Collart

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