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Kitting (+Lean PDF)

Kitting is a method used to standardize production processes. Sets of parts are consolidated and delivered to a work area as a unit. The kit contains the precise number of parts or amount of material to produce a set number of products.

The benefit is that there is less real estate required for material storage in the production areas, there is no possibility to work ahead of a pull signal, and the kit itself acts as a poka yoke to prevent errors.

The downside is that kitting requires effort to consolidate the parts and they require coordination to get the right kits to the right place at the right time.

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People tend to have strong feelings about kits, one way or the other. They love them or hate them. The truth is that there are very specific times when kits can be used to great benefit, but in many cases, the advantage of kitting is not substantially greater than creating robust processes in the production area.

When Kitting Helps a Process

  • On mixed-model lines.

When a single work area produces numerous models and configurations, or has multiple options available, kitting helps conserve space. Materials can be stored off-line, leaving the premium space for production.

  • When parts are frequently forgotten.

Kitting can help keep production specialists from forgetting to install a part. The concept is simple. If the worker thinks that their work is done, but there are still parts remaining in the kit, they left something off.

  • When different color parts are available

Kitting provides a quick visual method to make sure that all parts are the same color. This is especially helpful when different people work in isolated areas and don’t have a view of the whole product at the same time.

  • When parts are easily damaged

Piles of parts in production area can be easily damaged. Well-designed kits can protect parts. Painted parts, clear plastic molded parts, and sensitive electronics are all easily damaged in assembly areas. Kits containing cutouts can keep parts from rubbing against each other.

  • When space is at a premium.

Kitting also may reduce the size requirement of a work area. If a kit of parts is brought in only for the next product, there is no need to store components in the area.

Kitting can help drive standard work. The sequence of parts in a kit can match the need for the parts.

  • When people like to work ahead

Kits also help prevent people from building ahead. Frequently, building ahead happens when operators have some slight excess capacity and are worried about being perceived as ‘slacking’ or not working. They want to appear busy, so they build ahead. This most commonly happens with subcomponents.

Arguments Against Kitting

There are two significant arguments against kits. The first is that people have to put the kits together and transport them into a station. It takes time to do so. The second is that on occasion, a part is lost or damaged. In a kit, there is no way to go grab another part like you could if you had bins of parts in the area.

Look at all of these factors when deciding if kits make sense. If you routinely have parts shortages, have multiple product families going through the cell, offer options requiring additional parts, have space constraints, or face certain types of quality issues related to damaged materials, you should consider kits. Keep in mind, though, kitting is a process that should have its own Standard Work, pull signals, and takt time.

The Kitting Process

Like all processes in a well-run lean organization kitting should be very standardized. When developing a kitting process. Be sure to

  1. Establish standard work-in-process.
  2. Create standard work
  3. Make the kits visual
  4. Use pull signals to resupply

  • Make sure there is a rapid way to replace materials that are lost or damaged. When there are no spares on the line, parts problems are more likely to cause a line-stop.
  • Try to avoid complicated signaling/coordination methods for kits.

In an environment that makes use of kits, you will feel like your safety net is removed. When you make a mistake, and drop a part, or damage something on installation, you will need to announce the problem, calling attention to your error.

To avoid those problems, put the PDCA cycle to good use. Track the problems that stop production, and then enlist the help of your coworkers and boss to resolve the underlying root cause of the issue.

Be very careful if you decide to use kitting your organization. It is easy to go overboard and try to kit everything. Kitting has a cost, and can be frustrating to team members if the kits are commonly late, contain poor quality parts, are for the wrong products, or are incomplete/incorrect. Make sure to provide the resources to smoothly implement kitting before taking away the safety net of having materials easily available to production teams.

  • Kits act as a poka yoke by making sure the correct number of parts are installed.
  • Kitting conserves prime real estate in production areas. This is especially important on mixed-model lines.
  • Kitting has a cost to it. Make sure that the benefit outweighs the added expense. In general, if space is available, parts should be stored at the point of use.

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4 Comments

  • […] al 09/06/2011:Ricomincio da … lean dal blog ThinkSOC di Paolo Falcone: Grande Paolo! Grazie!Kitting dal blog Gotta Go Lean di Jeff Hajek: Come e perché costruire i kit di prodotti da consegnare in […]

  • Jeff,

    Kitting is a great way to standardize work in environments that lack structure and as you noted, help reduce errors.

    Thanks,
    Chris

  • Redge says:

    Kitting is advantageous for high model mix applications and was introduced for that purpose.

    As options are now infinitely variable, it is increasingly difficult to store bulk quantities of parts at the line.

    Unless the line demands it and space is a constraint, kitting makes sense – although it does introduce additional steps to the process.

    • Jeff Hajek says:

      Redge,

      Absolutely right. Thanks for keeping me honest. I had that point in my draft, and was a bit surprised that I couldn’t find it in my final version.

      I appreciate the quality control help. I’ll be updating the term shortly.

      Jeff

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