I have done some work in job shops and there have been many creative ways of creating pull and flow. I just saw one that was pretty impressive to me. I am not able to share images but hopefully I can do the process justice.

The shop was tight but I think it was more of an issue with finished goods and raw materials than the actual WIP processing area. The building was oddly shaped as well but they used the space effectively.

The incoming raw materials came in and an individual set up the order and which flow lane to start with. There were only 3 general types and there were some shared operations. The raw material was put on carts with wheels. This made it easy to move the equipment around and from the ergonomics point of view, it helped the techs work with the equipment.

There were lanes that were color coded to guide the equipment to each work cell. Each work cell had between 1 and 3 techs performing their work on the units. 85% of their needed materials were stored at the work center and Kanban cards were used for reordering. The Kanbans were usually handled by an individual that checked and filled the individual storage areas.

Not only did the tape on the floor indicate by color and location the assembly line, there was also marks on the floor for parking lots and WIP cap. There were several spots in front of a work cell that would only let 2 units be parked in front of the process before the previous process would stop. There was cross trained techs who could follow the work in such a situation.

The leadership had been working on this process for several years and then review the process quarterly. They have found that not only is raw material lower and throughput up, but variation related to cycle time and quality defects have been reduced by 30%.

The visibility on the floor, though not immediate due to the size of the equipment, is very good and from the mezzanine one can see where there is pull, flow and bottle necks in less than a minute.

The team has done a great job on organization, pull and flow with very little spending for materials. The spending was related to time spent with techs and leadership working on the details, modifying as needed and developing the tools, such as wheel carts to safely and effectively moving the units. Like the old commercial stated – Money for materials, less than $100, developing pull and flow at the job shop – Priceless.