In manufacturing, line balancing refers to a strategy that involves balancing operators and machine time in order to match the production rate with the rakt time of that specific product. For those unfamiliar with rakt time, it simply refers to the rate at which a particular product has to be produced to match its current demand.
The main goal of line balancing is to ensure the operators and machinery you have in your manufacturing plant are enough to meet the current demand without causing long and unnecessary waiting times. Companies that use Just in Time manufacturing also use line balancing to ensure customer orders are fulfilled in the shortest possible time.
How to implement line balancing
Determine takt time first
When implementing line balancing, it is important to first determine the rate at which you need to produce products in order to meet the demand at any given time. Takt Time = Available working time per shift divided by the rate of customer demand per shift. This formula can become more complex, especially if you are dealing with products with fluctuating demand.
Do detailed time studies.
Time studies involve determining the time it takes to complete each task on the production line. This helps to determine tasks that take more time to devise ways of reducing this time.
Determine the bottlenecks on the production line
You need to find out the stages in the production line that slow down the manufacturing process of a given product. With this information, it is easier to know where to invest more resources to eliminate or minimize the impact of these bottlenecks.
Reallocate resources if necessary
After doing time studies and determining bottlenecks in production, you may have to reallocate resources to ensure every stage of production is well optimized.
Benefits of line balancing
Reduces inventory waste
Inventory waste may include excess raw materials, work in progress, and unfished or finished products. Using line balancing streamlines the production process, making it easier to minimize building up surplus inventory. Line balancing also indirectly reduces several other inventory costs resulting from pilling many raw materials and products in your inventory.
Reduces waiting waste
Waiting waste includes any idle time when the different production stages are not well synchronized. One of the common examples of waiting waste is when operators have to wait for raw materials or someone else to complete a specific task. With line balancing, all stages of production are synchronized, which reduces the chances of having operators or machines waiting for certain processes to be complete before they can resume their work.
Reduces production costs
With minimal idle time, operators and machines on the production line are fully utilized, which indirectly reduces the cost per unit item produced. In simple terms, no operator is paid for being idle for a couple of hours each. Machines are also fully utilized.
Better customer experience
If you use line balancing, the time your customers have to wait for their orders is significantly reduced, leading to more customer satisfaction.