What is Pull Manufacturing?
A pull manufacturing system is a lean manufacturing technique that is intended to prevent waste coming from the production process. In the pull system, a new production process is only begun once there is specific demand for a product, reducing overhead and inventory storage costs. Prompted by an order, the product is “pulled” by consumer demand through the manufacturing process.
Manufacturers that use pull manufacturing apply the “just-in-time” production model, with products coming off the assembly line just in time to fulfill orders that have been placed. This is the opposite of push manufacturing (or “just-in-case” model) in which production is determined by predicted demand, at the risk of ending up with an oversupply or a shortage.
How to Manage a Pull Manufacturing System
The most common way to manage a pull manufacturing system is with the use of a kanban board that provides a clear visual of the work process including prompts for when it’s time to take the next step.
The kanban board contains three sections, “to do”, “in progress”, and “done” and no work begins until there is a specific demand for it. As part of the process, “work in progress” (WIP) limits need to be established. This means that there is a limit to the amount of work that can be in progress at each stage of the process, ensuring a smooth workflow with fewer bottlenecks.
Work can be broken down into small stages with each task being “pulled” from one stage to the next as necessary, so that anyone looking at the kanban board can see exactly what needs to be done and when.
Benefits of Pull Manufacturing
The major benefits of a pull manufacturing system include:
- Adaptability – because the team is only focusing on one work task at a time, they can adapt that task to meet new needs without impacting the rest of the process.
- Scalability – easy to scale production up and down as demand changes.
- Speed – products can be delivered faster because there is no need to wait for another production run to finish before starting.
- Reduced waste – resources are only used as needed, decreasing the amount of waste produced
- Increased productivity and efficiency – tracking and monitoring how much time it takes to complete a production cycle (which you can easily do using Matics) can help identify areas for improvement and planning for the future.