Continuous-flow manufacturing (CFM) is seamless, hurdle-free production. It’s an organization’s operational goal, wherein it hopes there are no production bottlenecks – right from the starting point to completion stage. For example, a shirt manufacturing firm would want the production to begin with raw material (cloth) and move to subsequent stages without interruptions, and only terminate at the packaging and shipping stage.
In CFM, items don’t get queued during any stage of production. It’s basically a single-line production layout. The output is in small batches, typically a single piece. CFM promotes team-building, communication and continual focus on quality. This substantially brings down defective item risks, which is usually associated with large batches. Other benefits are:
- The equipment in use are smaller, requiring less floor area.
- Shorter turnaround
- Manufacturing flexibility, in terms of both using the same layout for different items, and adding newer elements to specific process flow points.
- The cost savings compared to traditional manufacturing layouts, such as batch production, is higher – generally by 15 to 50 percent.
- Constant monitoring and the ability to inspect every item, during or after the process, reduces errors. With batch production, the production flow cannot be intercepted and one must wait for a large batch at the end. This makes it tough to inspect products and also a defective finished product is equivalent to production resources wasted.
- Since the output is in small batches, the inventory and associated storage costs are low, similar to just-in-time manufacturing.
- CFM is a relatively new technique and its capabilities have not been widely tested.
- The micro approach means economies of scale or producing in larger volumes is not CFM’s high point.