Henry Ford famously said, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black." Ford's remark underscored his belief that mass production and fast assembly were necessary to build affordable, dependable cars "for the great multitude." His vision of a simple, scalable platform product with minimal variations allowed him to produce 15 million Model Ts over its 19 model years, which revolutionized the automobile industry. (Myths aside, apparently, other colors were available initially but were discontinued because black paint dried so much faster. Interesting, but that's a story for another day.)
While Ford's strategy of high-volume, low-mix production has long been the desired model in most types of assembly operations, its opposite – high-mix, low-volume assembly – has increased significantly in the last couple of decades.
Why? Today's consumers want a variety of products and features tailored to their specific needs and preferences: high-mix, low-volume. In high-mix, low-volume manufacturing, production volume decreases inversely and accordingly to meet the demand for higher production variety.
There's no reason, though, that flipping the assembly model should turn production costs and speeds topsy-turvy. While the specifics of sourcing, setup, testing, production, packaging, and shipping may need to be adjusted, moving to high-mix, low-volume assembly can offer many advantages, including:
- faster reaction times to fluctuations in component costs and availability
- reduced inventory requirements
- improved responsiveness to consumer trends and market demands
- better customer service and satisfaction
- greater flexibility in the use of working capital
To improve operations in high-mix, low-volume organizations apply Lean principles and practices to assembly operations, dynamic environments call for progressive solutions. Implementing the Lean methodology will minimize waste and optimize material, people, and process flow, which are vital to achieving output quality and operational efficiency.
High-mix, low-volume assemblies require flexible, innovative racks, shelving systems, workstations, and other organizational solutions. These solutions improve space utilization, eliminate clutter, reduce travel and search time, protect worker safety, improve ergonomics, and speed picking, rotation, and replenishment. That's the only way to balance greater product variety with smaller production volume – and still turn a profit.
UNEX Manufacturing's FlowCells organize Lean assembly environments. Our workstations neatly store tools and parts in the appropriate order to eliminate wasted time looking for parts or locating tools. UNEX's Lean workstations integrate industry-leading carton flow solutions with galvanized steel workbenches and overhead toolbars to hold all of the equipment needed for tasks – keeping parts and products easily within reach without stretching, bending, or other risky body movements.
Learn more about Lean Manufacturing Storage in our guidebook. Download your free copy today!
UNEX specializes in engineered space-saving solutions for lean manufacturing environments. We serve several industries, including distribution, logistics, retail, and manufacturing. Learn more about how UNEX can help minimize waste, improve ergonomics, and optimize storage space within your operation, click here to contact us or call us at 800-334-8639.