Assembly Lines: Enhancing Production Lines In China

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    In most Chinese factories we visit, the workers and the supervisors decided how to organize their work. Obviously, no industrial engineer was involved.

    Let’s take a simple example. In an auto part factory, the parts need to go through 4 processes: machining, assembly, testing, and packing. It often looks like this:


    Why is there so much moving & waiting? Because the 4 processes I listed above are disconnected (the materials need to be stored somewhere in the workshops, brought to the downstream process, then handled again, etc.)

    A much better configuration for enhancing production lines is shown below. As much as practical, the materials should “flow” from one process to the next. This is possible by placing the equipment and the workstations in a line that is as compact as possible.


    Right after machining, the product goes through assembly, then through testing, and then through packing. No pause!

    Such assembly lines bring three benefits:

    • Productivity: less double-handling, less transportation of materials.
    • Quality: easier to find the root cause of an issue and fix it while “the trail is still hot”, rather than trying to figure out what went wrong with a big batch that was processed 2 weeks ago.
    • Speed: the lead time is much shorter.

    Have you seen a “flowing” assembly line? If not, would you agree that most factory managers are content with the way their operations are run and they don’t want to experiment with new process layouts?

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