'"What is a manufacturing supermarket?" is a great question, Gail. A manufacturing supermarket is intermediary storage on the production floor, aimed at reducing transportation waste by placing the bulk storage of parts as close to the assembly line as possible without being lineside.
That's quite the mouthful, so let's break down the history of manufacturing supermarket concept.
In the 1950s, Toyota sent a delegation to the United States to study and replicate America's mass-production techniques. However, inspiration struck not in a manufacturing facility but in a Piggly Wiggly supermarket. At the grocery store, the delegation saw customers serving themselves from shelves. These shelves would be replenished as needed. Seems pretty mundane, right? However, what we see as a standard operating procedure at any grocery store in America was a revelation to the Toyota team. They saw a system where the amount of product stocked on the shelves was dictated by demand. The product could be replenished from a nearby storage room without the need to order more or put the entire inventory of said product on the shelf.
How does this translate to manufacturing? Toyota realized that to reduce waste, they needed to store just enough of a part or material lineside to meet the demand of the operation and condense their assembly line. If they placed their entire inventory of a part on the line, they would dramatically increase travel time to the next step in the assembly line. This travel time results in a lot of waste. However, if they had to travel across the facility to restock a part on the line, they'd be burning just as much time and money. The solution was to create a "storage room" as close to the assembly line as possible.
And so the manufacturing supermarket was born. Toyota created a process where lineside storage could be replenished from intermediary storage placed as close to the assembly line as possible. This drastically reduces waste, such as overproduction, waiting, transportation, and motion. Think of it like a miniature distribution center within a short distance of your manufacturing processes. Instead of having to ship in more parts or crowd your assembly line, you can simply replenish your lineside storage throughout the shift from your dedicated miniature DC.
UNEX offers solutions designed specifically with the manufacturing supermarket in mind. We specialize in engineered space-saving solutions, serving several industries, including distribution, logistics, retail, and manufacturing. Learn more about how UNEX can improve the design and performance of your manufacturing supermarket click here to contact us or call us at 800-334-8639.