Full Kitting - Lean SCM

Imagine that your company needs to satisfy customers that increasingly proofs your flexibility with highly customized (or unique) products (and services) and in short lead times.

We know how difficult this is… responding to such customers while maintaining the Board satisfied. Highly customized or unique products are expensive and take time, but customers tend to ignore these last two parts of the equation. They want it now and affordable otherwise they seek someone else who can do it (and if the business you are in is interesting there is always someone who will do it).

In the last two decades the auto industry had gone through drastic changes in the way it responded to uncertain customer demand. We all appreciate differentiation, we tend to see us as unique so we demand unique treatment and unique goods. To cope with this, auto industry developed the lean supply chain management (Lean SCM) mainly based on the “pull flow management” concept. As a result, today we see many industrial firms using concepts such as: assembly cells, border of line, EPEI (ie, every part in every instant), mizusumashi, supermarkets, pitch time, heijunka box, vendor managed inventory (VMI), “milk run” system, kanban system and many others. Undoubtedly, these building blocks have increased the flow rate of materials throughout the supply chain, they have allowed (very) small quantities to be supplied. Above all, those concepts have changed the SCM paradigm, which is no longer based on local optimisation rather on global thinking.

The next development leap of Lean SCM is to effectively respond to demand for unique products and services in short lead times and at affordable prices. We think that the above mentioned concepts by themselves are not sufficient. Putting a mizusumashi making cycles every 20 minutes (or less) supplying different cells that produce small quantities of products is not the same as producing (and/or servicing) unique products to unique customers. The answer to this it is called Full Kitting (FK). It consists of proving, at the edge of the assembly line, all the parts and components necessary to produce or service a product. The transportation of parts and components (forming “kits”) can be made using automated trolleys (such as AGV’s – automatically guided vehicles).

FK is supported by a group of logistic operators that prepare the specific kits for specific products or services and then place them into the trolleys. The preparation of kits is done in the “pick-to-light” area by logistics operators (this is also called the "picking cell"). The main goal at this stage is to prepare the right kit with the right components and parts at the right time.

Once ready, the kit is carried to the right workstation (alternatively, when dealing with assembly lines, the kit is carried to the begging of the of the line to which the assigned final product is being assembled). The automated trolley carries more than one kit at the time and its path and parking spot are very nearly located to the workstations (or assembly line).

As the assembly processes occur, the automated trolley moves along the line and stops at the end so that the empty kits can be retrieved back to picking cell for a new set of unique products.

In this short movie by PSA group you can have a general overview of the FK concept. At the end of the animation several workers testify about their experience and expectations on this revolutionary lean supply model.

Using FK allows companies to respond to changing client demands and better management of range diversity. Here are some of the advantages of this approach:
  • All the necessary parts and components are delivery to the right place at the right time (avoiding unnecessary worker’s movement looking for missing parts);
  • It’s the right response to unitary production (job shop), which is the ultimate level of flexibility and it is expressed as EPEI;
  • The “pick-to-light” area assures that all that is necessary for a specific product or services is in the respective kit;
  • Less congestion in the production floor (only one visit per product and each trolley’s cycle can be planned for several final and unique products);
  • More safety (less people movement as they are served by the automated trolley);
  • Reduced supply and retrieval time and costs;
  • Greater visibility of operations.

The FK model can be integrated with some existing Lean SCM components, such as the heijunka box for planning proposes, the “milk run system” and VMI for external suppliers and visual control systems. Supermarkets are no longer needed as they are replaced by kits compromising all the necessary parts.

Now, to conclude, I am asking to imagine again how powerful can be FK when used in non-production sites, such as surgery rooms, medical clinics, repair shops, book shops, hotels, restaurants and many other examples of services.

The FK concept is still in its development stages. As more and more firms are starting to apply it more it will be improved and more technological components can be added. At CLT Valuebased Services we can be your partner in designing and implementing Lean SCM systems.

Think lean, make it happen.
João Paulo Pinto (
07 Abr, 2016
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