The process of kitting is often used in manufacturing companies as a way of, reducing material handling and processing times and improving line side assembly. While it’s not without its challenges the implementation of kitting has numerous advantages (when deployed correctly).
What is kitting
Kitting is the gathering of components and parts needed for the manufacture of a particular assembly or product. Individual components are gathered together, as a kit, and issued to the point of use.
Kitting typically works through a series of steps
1/ The production team, often in conjunction with the manufacturing leads, define the kit of parts. These are often runner repeater parts that would currently take up substantial processing time.
2/ Stock will be reviewed and where shortages exist purchase orders raised
3/ A method for the issuing of the kit is defined (see below)
4/ In line with the requirement generated by ERP/MRP the stores team will pick parts and load a trolley with the kit of parts and issue for use.
Benefits of kitting in a assembly/manufacturing environment
Kitting has various benefits, the overall effect is to reduce the time taken in processing parts and reduce downtime for the assembly line. Kitting can help reduce handling, motion time by operators, machine downtime due to parts availability.
Problems with kitting in a manufacturing plant
As with many manufacturing initiatives kitting works well where the MRP/ERP data is robust and that the supply chain delivery meets demand. Kitting will fail where components are not available – this could be caused through inaccurate data (parts are not available when the ERP system says they are) or where a supplier fails to deliver a part destined for a kit. This is a very real and common problem. Some organizations will decide to issue incomplete kits but this does not realize the full range of benefits identified above. Where there is a heavy reliance on suppliers – its important that the procurement team get involved with the kitting deployment and work closely with the suppliers and that the suppliers understand the kitting deployment.
Alternatives to kitting
While the process described above is a common way of carrying out kitting there are other variations that can be applied
Direct Line Feed
A common method used is direct line feed or placing materials at point of use. In this scenario materials are placed line side for the operators to pick and use. This will typically need some sort of storage unit (which can result in increased requirement for floor space in the assembly area). Direct Line Feed can be established for both kits and individual components. There is often a reliance on the line side operators to carry out the picking and issuing processes and where training is not provided operators can cause data discrepancies or errors (let’s not forget that stock control is not the core competency of the typical assembly worker) and additional overhead is often required to ensure that this discipline is adhered to.
Use of supermarkets
Most organizations will utilize some form of central stores – in some cases these can be supported through introducing supermarkets or mini-stores throughout the site. These supermarkets carry a dedicated range of components required for line side use and are placed close to point of consumption. The central store will stock and replenish these as appropriate. A Kanban process is often coupled with supermarket usage to act as the reorder trigger between the supermarket and the main store. In this case kitting is carried out directly by the line side operator from the supermarket. There are some disadvantages with this approach – again floor space can be an issue and again there is a reliance on line side staff to manage stock appropriately.
Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI)
Vendor Managed inventory implies that a range of parts and kits are outsourced to the supplier. Consumption data (actual and forecast) is provided to the supplier who maintains and replenishes the correct stock levels for the range of parts being managed – these can be located anywhere in the factory both in a central stores or line-side. The immediate advantage is the reduction in inventory costs as they are typically borne by the supplier until the parts are used. Once again these are often accompanied by a Kanban process to support reorder process.