Line Balancing is a key strategy that rearranges or reallocates the resources (workers and machines) to remove bottlenecks or excess capacity.
A bottleneck slows down the entire process and results in operations waiting. Whereas excess capacity results in waiting and no absorption of fixed costs.
The very purpose of line balancing is to balance operator and machine time to match the production rate to the customer demand, also called Takt time.
Remember that Takt time is the rate at which parts or products must be manufactured to meet customer demand.
Line balancing also absorbs internal and external irregularities. This means it reduces variations. This way, a balanced line is stable and flexible enough to adapt to changes.
For example, if takt time changes, the operations can be realigned quickly through the line balancing strategy.
Another fact that improves productivity using line balancing is that workers and machines perform in a fully synchronized manner. Operators are not standing idle and machines work at their full potential. This represents fewer costs and more profits.
Line balancing: the antidote for bottlenecks
Bottlenecks can be detected quickly and easily at a glance and, as mentioned above, line balancing is a great tool for removing them
In fact, the main job of line balancing is to eliminate or reduce WIPs (work in progress) in bottleneck operations. This way, the entire process workflow runs smoothly.
Line Balancing should, therefore, be on your horizon when dealing with bottlenecks
Line Balancing and the 8 wastes of Lean
This critical production strategy fixes several wastes, thus improving the long-term survival rate of manufacturing businesses.
Waiting waste is one of the eight wastes of lean manufacturing. It refers to any idle time caused by a bad synchronization of a process. Therefore, it is not possible to perform added value operations.
For example, waiting waste happens when workers are waiting for materials or for someone else to do his job.
Line balancing ensures that all machines and operators work together in a balanced way, with no idle time.
Inventory waste is another type of lean. It is probably the deadliest, as it represents an excess raw of materials, work in progress (unfinished goods), or finished goods.
Inventory waste leads to wasting money, time, damages, and overproduction (another type of waste).
Line balancing fixes inventory waste as it standardizes production, which means it is easier to avoid excess inventory. By reducing idle time, line balancing ensures that there is minimum work in progress.
This is possible because a balanced line produces closer to Takt time and therefore guarantees on-time delivery.
Steps to achieve line balancing
This section will cover the required steps to successfully implement a proper line balancing strategy in a manufacturing business.
Let us start.
1. Know your Takt Time
The goal of line balancing is to match the production rate to customer demand. So, being aware of your Takt time is essential.
Bear in mind that it is not possible to measure Takt time with a stopwatch. It has to be calculated with the following formula:
takt time = available production time / customer demand
Once calculated your actual Takt time, go to the next step.
2. Perform Time and Motion studies with ISC
This is a key factor that allows you to examine every single step of a manufacturing process to:
- Identify where most time is spent.
- Reduce and/or eliminate the 8 wastes of lean.
- Establish the time required to complete each task along your production line.
Of course, Time and Motion studies result in several benefits that will drive every manufacturing business. They:
- Enhance the current methods of performance improvements. The size of the industry or operations does not matter.
- Help to distinguish the right floor plan or operation layout of the factory.
- Result in better resource utilization, increased job fulfillment, and overall efficiency.
- Reduce manual effort due to the implementation of a better workflow.
Keep in mind that while it is possible to do time and motion studies with a stopwatch, there are now ISC solutions that will help you do it much faster.
3. Find out Bottlenecks
Once your time and motion studies have been done, it is important to detect which operations are actually bottlenecks.
Analyze which parts of the process are taking longer than the Takt time. This means that products are being delivered late, which means high shipping costs or dissatisfied clients.
Bear in mind that the parts of the process that are taking less than Takt time reflect excess capacity.
4. Reallocate resources with ISC
Reallocating resources can be done manually using a Precedence Diagram. However, this is a complex, time-consuming task that can be easily fixed.
The solution is DGL, the line balancing software from ISC, which will save you a lot of headaches.
It works from the Time and Motion studies done with DGM and DGI, to successfully balance a production line cleverly.
DGL will rearrange tasks to reduce overcapacity and eliminate bottlenecks. For example, it moves resources such as operators and machines from parts of the production line that have excess capacity to bottlenecks.
In other words, one of the goals of DGL is to lighten the workload where there is inventory waste, and to move it to places that can absorb more work. This will also reduce the waiting waste in the places where there was excess capacity.
In addition, DGL also provides a Simulation module to launch scenarios based on the balanced line. This way, you will know the future behavior of the production line and anticipate new bottlenecks.
Line balancing is a powerful production strategy with significant industrial importance. It improves the efficiency of a whole process, reducing and eliminating bottlenecks and waste while unlocking more value.
ISC is the right choice for this job, saving tons of your time thanks to its powerful DGL software. ISC not only balances your line but allows you to simulate different scenarios to anticipate bottlenecks and trigger unsuspected production capacity.