How to respond to changing priorities?


The client, a major automotive supplier had previously created a Kanban system which was set up for a new product build line. The Kanban was used to create an automated and regulated flow line driven by customer demand signals, but it was not functioning correctly and was proving ineffective.

The signals to indicate a product movement had occurred were not functioning and therefore not ‘pulling’ new product into the flow line. This was exacerbated as the components were kitted for delivery into the new build line from a separate building to the assembly line. So, the line was being operated and managed manually through an unofficial spreadsheet (which only became apparent during the investigation). This was not shared, making the process even more vulnerable if those using the spreadsheet were absent.

The following objectives were agreed:

  • Focus the team’s efforts on a specific production problem, using their knowledge and problem-solving skills to overcome the production line issues.
  • Improve the flow of work further developing ‘pull’ into the production line.
  • Reduce the amount of delay in product build and remove blockages in the component area.
  • Remove the paper-driven workaround solution, using manually prepared spreadsheets.


Our solution: Detailed Process Mapping.

A detailed process mapping review indicated that the Kanban when originally designed had not considered the technical inputs from electronic management systems (CBM and SAP) that were necessary to progress the assembly process. The build line designer had not appreciated the requirements of a Kanban and in particular the necessity of creating a ‘pull system’ that would also trigger electronic data flow as well as registering the physical movement of hardware within the build process. The missing electronic signals were, therefore, preventing the Kanban functioning correctly and creating major delays.,

Through detailed mapping using experts from the assembly activity, these problems were identified and clearly, the problem had been masked to some degree through the creation and use of an unofficial spreadsheet from which the missing signals could be manually e-mailed or ‘phoned through.


Creating a fully functioning Kanban enabled the following outcomes:

  • The ‘build line’ was immediately able to respond to changing priorities and varying rates of flow.
  • The vulnerability of an unofficial spreadsheet only visible to one person was eliminated.
  • The electronic monitor used visual symbols to enable all personnel to understand the status of build against targets.
  • An electronic monitor of status was created.
  • Documentation was standardised to simplify and create greater clarity.
  • Personnel involved in the activity started acting as a team, rather than as a set of individuals.
  • The process operation became simpler and more robust with reduced waste in particular waiting time and over production.

MCP Consulting Group offers a range of Continuous Improvement courses including Lean Practitioner, Kanban systems, Rapid Changeover, Kaizen, Process Mapping and Problem Solving using RCA, OEE and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM).


“To support business best practice we provide a range of City & Guilds courses from our Continuous Improvement, Maintenance & Asset Management and Technical Skills training programme offers.”

“All our courses are carefully designed to deliver improved manufacturing capability and performance.”

Peter Gagg, CEO, MCP Consulting Group Ltd

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