Identify Areas of Flow

Flow is Nirvana, The Ultimate Method of Process to Process Movement

Flow is one of three methodologies of passing a product or service from an upstream process to a downstream process. It is the fastest methodology, but also the most difficult methodology to attain. Let me start by explaining this graphic. SIPOC is a generally high-level representation of a process representing inputs and outputs. The S and I stand for Supplier and Input respectively. These represent inputs to the process. P simply stands for Process. O and C represent Output and Customer respectively.


Processes are made up of activities. For Flow to occur, all the activities in the upstream process must take the same time to execute as all the activities in the downstream process. This sets up the transfer. There needs to be no special communication between the processes. The upstream and downstream processes finish at the same time.

Flow is not only ideal, but it is difficult to accomplish. However, it is worthwhile to take the effort to move processes to this configuration. You might be able to accomplish this by shifting activities from one process to another. You have the option of shifting activities either to the upstream process or the downstream process.

Flow and Pull

Interesting enough, when you have an area of flow, that is a good place to initiate your kanban or pull system. This would be an opportunity to start the implementation of a Lean Production System if you were a manufacturer.

In Conclusion

It is unlikely that Flow will happen throughout a whole system. However, it is to the system’s benefit if you can target areas and modify processes to make it happen. Toyota may rearrange machines to create flow. It can improve production efficiency by 2 to 3 times. This means that you are operating with a minimal amount of either excess inventory or wasted time.