Chapter 16. Flow-Through Facilities

Tenets of good, lean design of production facilities seem often to be poorly understood. Or, if understood, situations conspire to sway manufacturers away from them.

A big offender has to do with size. But not size of equipment. Manufacturers have come to understand lean machines. The opposites, widely referred to as monuments, are handmaidens of batch-and-queue processing. They were justified by now-discredited economy-of-scale notions fed by spurious cost-accounting practices: loopy calculations that could find lower unit costs for producing monumental volumes of items destined to sit in storage.

Though manufacturers no longer see scale as making sense for equipment, the same is not the case for factories. Are growing sales volumes stretching the capacity of the present plant? The automatic response has been, and still often is: build an addition. The larger plant, so the thinking goes, will yield scale economies.[318] That dubious notion is this chapter's first topic. The second topic has to do with unlean production lines: too often long and few, instead of short and many. The final topic brings in the bigger picture: tying pricing and making money to good flow-through facility designs.


Siemens Energy & Automation in Philadelphia is housed in a 175,000-square-foot plant (about 16,000 square meters). It has been enlarged four times and is home to three focused product lines or value streams. A strong lean effort was ...

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