Case Study 7: From trickle to flow

Taking part in a supply chain programme presented an opportunity for applying process improvements to a cable assembly area with potential tangible benefits for both supplier and customer.

The improvement objectives were to reorganise the shop layout to reduce travel time and improve process event connectivity, change material issuing from kitting to single piece flow and establish pull systems of replenishment throughout the process.

Cable demands were loaded into the stores area as complete kits and the kits picked and bagged in readiness for loading to the shop.

Each kit could contain up to 70 cable assemblies.

At each stage in the process the kits were completed prior to moving through to the next manufacture stages.

This approach resulted in high levels of work in progress and long lead-times through the system.

In addition the work area was cluttered with unnecessary items contained in the area including excess kit bins and cable reels, tooling cabinets and racks.


The team evaluated the existing process and identified the value adding and waste elements using flowcharting, string diagrams and process activity charting techniques.

This analysis provided the necessary information to develop a revised floor layout which would minimise the people and material movement within the process, enable co-location of personnel, improve process connectivity and support the introduction of single piece flow manufacture within the section.

Without significantly interrupting manufacture the team dismantled and relocated 42 workstations, re-organised and significantly reduced the cable stock holding, relocated tooling and improved access using shadow boards and implemented visual control.

In addition, sufficient space was freed up within the target area to allow the creation of a dedicated training bay with space for 12 workstations.

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The process now operates a pull system from the production operatives.

They complete a single cable assembly and move the job onto the inspection rack adjacent to their work area.

They then withdraw the 'next job' from their line side rack and continue assembly.

The withdrawn job is a visual trigger to the cable cutting team to pull from their preceding process and cut the required cable for the next assembly.

Demand in turn moves upstream to the stores area where the next components are picked for the next scheduled assembly, loaded into a 'bin' with the necessary documentation and placed into the cable cutting Kanban.

Customer Profile

Electric cable supplies

Main focus of activity
Process Improvement (Manufacturing)


Reduction in WIP from 212 assy's to 40 assy's (81%)
Reduction in leadtime from 7 weeks to 2.5 weeks (64%)
Reduction in process steps from 96 to 18 (81%)
Reduction in operator movement from 305m to 39m (87%)




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