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Production Flow Elements – First In / First Out (FIFO)
A key part of implementing Lean Manufacturing into a Production area is understanding Flow; how parts move along the processes, between each workstation and what this looks like across the week and month. The future state value stream map has provided a vision for what the Production flow will look like, defining which parts of the overall production process can flow easily, which parts needs direction and which sections need the highest level of control.
For the parts of production that need direction between flow sections but some level of balancing can be achieved, a First In / first Out (FIFO) queue can be useful. FIFO queues dictate the order of product as it arrives in a queue for the next operation. These work especially well when two or more process are then funneled into a single process or department.
To establish a FIFO queue, an overall analysis needs to be conducted to ensure that the capacity is sufficient to cope with the usual variations your factory can expect over a month of production. If one section of the process is a stand out bottleneck, other lean tools like set-up reduction and preventative maintenance will also need to be brought in.
Defining a FIFO area needs to include the maximum and minimum amount of product you expect; this will help to establish how much area you physically need to create this queue, as well as setting the limits to audit the FIFO lane. FIFO queues needs to be visual; signed to explain what the queue is for, what the maximum and minimum limits are, who moves the product in or out and who to call if things aren’t right. The process to stop production when the maximum point has been reached needs to be clearly defined and well understood by all involved. If this process is not well understood and production is allowed to continue, then the benefits of a FIFO queue will be lost.
FIFO queues also need auditing. A simple daily walk of the production process, noting the level on inventory in each FIFO area, on a standard form, is a great way to keep an eye on production and to gauge the health of the process by noting which parts are running well and which areas may need help. Keeping a daily check of the overall work in progress over a period of time will show how well the production system is going and how good the initial analysis was. This information can then be used to further refine the production system and problem solve the areas that are preventing flow from occurring.
FIFO queues are a good way to control the movement of product between machines or areas of flow.