What Is One Piece Flow?

The purpose of One Piece Flow – minimising waste in the value stream.

One Piece Flow is not always possible but it should be a constant goal of leadership as it provides opportunities to improve the value stream. If the process flows using One Piece Flow (making one product at a time rather than batching) it will expose problems immediately.  The intolerance of variation and waste will become acuter among the teams as these will inevitably disrupt the flow.

One Piece Flow requires a vigilance of process, capable problem solvers, and a level of stability beyond that which would be found in an environment awash with inventory and work in progress.

In a lot of cases, it is not possible to maintain One Piece Flow. Exceptions will occur with equipment or process design, however, the role of leaders is to safeguard against a complacency to build more than is required and to coach teams to strive to find ways to achieve One Piece Flow. It is not a comfortable environment and it requires agile support mechanisms to keep the value stream moving. However, value streams that work with One Piece Flow show better results in quality and productivity.


Benefits of One Piece Flow

  • Optimise flow of product in the value stream
  • Minimise cost
  • Expose problems that prevent flow
  • Optimise the process lead time

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This page was written by Bob Newton in February 2018.
Due for review in 2019.
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