REDUCING WORK IN PROGRESS (WIP) INVENTORY: STRATEGIES FOR LEAN MANUFACTURING

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Wip manufacturing happens to be one of the most important parts of lean manufacturing. It refers to any materials that have started their journey through the production process and haven’t yet proceeded to the finished product state. 

Work in Progress inventory refers to any materials and components that have begun their journey through the production process but are not yet finished products. Reducing WIP is crucial if you have aimed at lean manufacturing because it leads to smoother workflows, greater liquidity, and overall improved performance. 

Since it’s inevitable, we’ve brought you strategies here that will help you reduce WIP and achieve a smoother workflow. Let’s explore the strategies leading to lean effective lean manufacturing.

What is WIP in Manufacturing?

As mentioned earlier, it represents the goods, components, or materials that have entered the manufacturing process And are still at various stages of production. In other words, the components that haven’t reached the other end as finished goods. 

To be more specific, the following constitute WIP inventory.

  • Raw materials
  • Partially assembled components
  • Items awaiting inspection

Why Reducing WIP Inventory? Decoding its Importance

  1. Reducing WIP is directly proportional to cost reduction. This practice decreases the inventory carrying cost, storage, insurance, etc. 
  2. Lower WIP levels lead to smoother and more predictable flows. This in turn reduces delays and bottlenecks, 
  3. With reducing WIP, the quality is enhanced exponentially. Fewer items in progress reduce the chances of defects going unnoticed, leading to quicker identification & correction. 
  4. With less WIP, manufacturers can more swiftly respond to changes in demand, meanwhile improving agility and customer service. 

5 Fool-Proof Ways to Reduce WIP in Manufacturing

  1. Just in Time Manufacturing (JIT)

JIT refers to the production method material enters the manufacturing cycle only when the product is really needed. This is a great way to reduce many types of waste, particularly surplus. This method aims to get rid of overproduction, waiting, and excess inventory. 

The benefits of JIT include reduced inventory costs, minimized waste, and improved cash flow. However, you must remember to take care of precise demand forecasting, strong supplier relationships, and an efficient production schedule for the successful implementation of this method. 

  1. Locate Bottlenecks

A bottleneck is a stage in the manufacturing process scheduled to complete more objectives than it can produce at maximum capacity. When the bottleneck occurs, it slows down the process, compelling the employees to work overtime or compromise on other tasks such as 5s and training. 

Removing these bottlenecks will reduce the WIP time, thus maximizing the output. Removing them requires the allocation of more resources, for instance, materials and employees. 

Process efficiency enhancement, reduced lead times, and overall improved productivity are some of the great outcomes of managing bottlenecks. Proper implementation of this process is crucial which can be done by conducting the process analysis, involving cross-functional teams, and continuously monitoring and improving the workflows. 

  1. Coordinate

Coordination is extremely important in any organization and manufacturing. Practicing it ensures employees are all focused on a common goal. Every single employee must understand each part of the manufacturing process, which allows them to perform their task exceptionally. 

Workers can better set up the processes that follow and precede them, resulting in faster task completion. 

Proper coordination leads to a lot of time saved during various steps, reducing WIP while manufacturing. It also benefits organizations in balancing workloads, reducing idle time, and ultimately minimizing WIP. The best way to conduct it is to use advanced scheduling software, consider production constraints, and regularly review and adjust schedules. 

  1. Upgrade

Upgrading machinery and employees is one of the best ways to reduce WIP in manufacturing. Offering training serves as the foremost and most effective step. By conducting in-depth sessions on how to perform tasks, employees learn to master their trade, reducing WIP.

Remember training employees can be of no use unless they are involved in hands-on practice. This allows them to perform tasks at a good pace. To conduct it, the manufacturers therefore must upgrade the tools. Keeping equipment up to par is often the most vital part of reducing WIP. 

Other methods of improvement include hiring more employees, fixing network issues, and offering incentives to employees. Some of the strategies to upgrade and implement the upgrade include Analyzing current setup procedures, identifying improvement opportunities, and training employees on SMED techniques. 

5.  Organize

Out of 18,000 businesses, 57% said they lose six working hours per week to disorganization. This is the impact of disorganization, which is one of the most common bottlenecks that production units have to face. 

Disorganization can be vast and in various shapes like tools, parts, or information. Any disarray in these will lead to WIP in manufacturing, causing delays in production. 

To reduce WIP, disorganization must be tackled. The best solution to this problem is to provide proper and comprehensive guidelines on where the items should go besides figuring out how many. 

Organizing storage bins by properly labeling them is another practical and productive approach. By knowing the exact status and location of the inventory or materials, transitional time can be reduced, allocating it more to work. 

The proper implementation of these strategies requires investment in relevant technologies such as Automated Guided Vehicles, Robotics, and advanced software. 

Final Thoughts

Lean manufacturing and its goals cannot be achieved without reducing WIP. Various strategies like JIT, Organizing, Upgradation, etc., and their effective implementation can help manufacturers reduce WIP manufacturing considerably. 

This can also be successfully achieved by leveraging technology, optimizing schedules, and training the workforce. 

One must remember how important it is for us to sustain lean manufacturing principles like reducing WIP inventory in order to thrive in the manufacturing landscape. 

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