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Feeder Lines

Feeder lines are a very specialized branch of a main assembly line. Generally, they are used when there is a different amount of work required for an option or for the most time intensive product on a mixed-model assembly line.

Feeder lines will run on their own takt time. The demand on the feeder line is determined by the station that it supplies parts to. It will run at a different pace than the main assembly line.

The biggest challenge with running a feeder line is coordination. It can be difficult to make sure that the right products meet up with the main unit moving down the main assembly line.

Image from "Structuring Standard Work: A Leader's Guide to Developing Standard Work That Works" (Click the image to learn more)

You’ll often see a kanban square or a supermarket at the end of the feeder line. When the main assembly line pulls a product, the empty square is a signal for the feeder line to produce more. Because the demand on the feeder line is generally very erratic, staffing is often flexible. Supervisors frequently add or remove people to match the expected takt time for the day. This obviously creates a need to have very structured Standard Work for the feeder line because of the frequent movement of personnel.

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