Heijunka is a production system designed to keep supply level equal to that of demand by eliminating peaks and valleys created by the fall and rise of demand for a company’s products. The system is amongst lean management techniques designed by the Toyota Corporation to promote full utilization of available resources. This includes, raw materials, time and man power. For example, if a company receives, numerous orders to deliver a specific number of products today and receive none the following day, workers will be busy today and idle the following day, time will be wasted and no materials will be used to regenerate cash Just In Time for the purchase of more materials to sustain production.
In Japanese terms, Heijunka seeks to eliminate the consequences of mura (irregularity) and muri (waste) in a fashion that steps up workers morale. Workers who are not sure whether there will be income generating activities the following day may lead stressful lives that can in return hamper their innovation and creativity. This makes the management style suitable for companies that are interested in building in-house competence and product superiority using continuous efficiency improvement techniques such as the 5Ss and the Kaizen methods of management.
Heijunka is vital in avoiding overproducing a specific model as this can be costly in terms of storage space. Thus, Toyota molded the management philosophy in a manner that allows production efforts to be directed towards products that have the highest demand. The production prioritization is on the other hand monitored using the 1940s Kanban production control system that establishes what to produce, when to produce it and in what quantities using knowledge based system. This makes it an important production technique that keeps customers happy by getting what they want at the right time and price.
You can adopt the production leveling system within a month, for instance, by determining the number of units demanded on monthly basis. Ascertain the product’s weekly requirements before noting the number of days the production system has to run in a week to achieve the results then calculate each product’s daily requirement and work out the build ratio and each commodity’s frequency of production. Move to final step of coming up with a production schedule and start, monitoring the system to the end to identify mistakes that can be avoided in the next cycle of production to attain efficiency.
Heijunka is not necessary for businesses that enjoy the benefits of regular and steady demand for their products. These are enterprises with monopolistic outlook. Enterprises lacking adequate ability for efficient data collection and analysis cannot as well put the system into effective use. This is because Heijunka involves high level data management systems that can be costly in the initial stages of establishing the lean management strategy.
The primary goal of Heijunka is to balance human capital and machine output. Therefore, it might not make economical sense to go for the management system if your business does not involve high level automated machines such as those found along a car assembly line or a printing press designed to come up with different product sizes, shapes and specifications.