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Right-Sized Machine

Production processes require assets to run them. You generally have choices. You can use a big machine that costs a lot of money, but has tremendous functionality and flexibility. These machines, because of their cost, end up being used in several processes or for several products to defray the cost. This tends to disrupt flow.

The alternative is to buy or build a smaller machine that may have fewer functions. This machine is dedicated to a single process. It can then be located in a logical position to support one piece flow without causing problems for other product families. 

As mentioned earlier, the real reason to use smaller, right-sized machines is to support flow. If a machine is shared, it is not always available for a process. That means it must build inventory to support the processes for which it is not currently producing. There is also a need to transport completed items to and from the machine, as it will not be situated in the optimal spot for flow.

Creating right-sized machines solves these problems. It supports flow because there is nothing else that is competing for the machines’ time. So, why then isn’t this done all the time? Generally, if something is easy, it is in common use. First, there is still the perception that bigger, faster machines are better. It is a hard sell to make people shift that perception. Right-size machines are often simple and don’t have the unit speed of massive CNC machines. The small machine might only be able to produce at a third of the rate of the large machine. While the benefits of simplicity and flow offset that disadvantage, it is not apparent on paper when…

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