4.19.2012

The Self-Balancing Line Method -- The "What" and "Why"

I met Gordon Ghirann about five years at an Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) conference. At that time, he was giving a presentation at the conference about the benefits of "Self-Balancing" line method. Now, in 2012, he has published a book on the method titled The Basics of Self-Balancing Processes: True Lean Continuous Flow.

I recently spoke with Gordon about this method and asked him quite plainly: "Why should the 'self-balancing' method be implemented at manufacturing organizations?" Here is his response:

First, it is quick to implement and very flexible. This is important if you are in a start-up mode and/or having frequent changes to your processes. The laborious task of trying to exactly divide the work content evenly is eliminated. With Self-Balancing, adding or removing work content does not cause your line to go out of balance, nor does adding or removing operators.

Second, even if your line is fairly stable, Self-Balancing has consistently been over 30% more productive than traditional line-balancing methods. This occurs mainly because all operators are allowed to work to their full potential (with all their natural variances), and the wasteful process of repeatedly setting the unit down between operators (only to pick it up later) is eliminated. The hand offs between operators with Self-Balancing promotes teamwork and communication, as well as breaking up the dehumanizing and repetitive work normally associated with assembly lines.

Finally -- but there are many more -- you should implement Self-Balancing because it works. Whether it is an assembly line, service operation, or moving anything one piece at a time between people... it works, Traditional line balancing has many flaws, and is not designed to create continuous flow; never has, never will. Self-Balancing was developed to create flow. It has a bias for flow. Anything short of that is not Self-Balancing, and seeing true continuous flow for the first time is a beautiful (and nearly perfect) thing. It's what you have been waiting for.


What do you think of Gordon's remarks? I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who has used the Self-Balancing process and whether it has produced greater results than other line-balancing methods. How has it affected inventory and variation?

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