3 areas Material Flow Analysis (MFA) can help you improve in manufacturing

Material Flow Analysis (MFA), or Process Flow Analysis, is a fundamental aspect for planning out material process steps. Within the framework of material handling, MFA has the goal of mapping, inspecting and evaluating all flows within an organization.  

Its focus is to gain a statistical benchmark for a supply chain. For instance, how are parts flowing from suppliers, to storage locations, and finally to the point of use? And, how can we get our product to our customers in a faster, yet more controlled manner?  

When operational Material Flow Analysis is done right, it will expose opportunities for improvement in: 

1. Optimizing the production process 
2. Reducing operating costs 
3. Finding ways to reduce waste or cut it 

This analysis is therefore, used to save valuable time, assets, and expenses.  

How Material Flow Analysis can help optimize the production process  

The application of MFA is in almost all aspects leading up to production. An in-depth analysis can show opportunity for optimization in workflows of many corporate departments. From supplier centers, to distribution and logistics, to warehouse storage and more.  

For example, some of the most critical disruptions in production happen due to material availability at point of use (MAPOU). When production is down because of missing parts or materials, lead times for products become uncertain. Employees and customers alike are negatively affected. The customer does not get their product at the promised date and time. The employees in the assembly lines are idle and costing the organization sometimes thousands of dollars (per minute!). In the meantime, the Material Flow Managers are scrambling to resolve the issue.  

Conducting a Material Flow Analysis can help you explore the causes of missing items at the time of production. 

  • Who reported the issue 
  • What part or material 
  • Where the issue was reported (department or work center). 
  • When the impact occurred.  
  • Why the material availability issue was reported 
  • How many units were impacted?  

Data integrity is key to discovering the problem and effective ways to reduce it. In this example, real-time visibility can play a crucial part in managing disruptions. Using the right tool can help you enter occurrences right from the plant floor. As data trends arise, you can configure automation tracking and alerts at the time of risk. This is just one way Material Flow Analysis can help you be proactive in optimizing the production process.  

The role of Material Flow Analysis in reducing operating costs  

When combined with an assessment of the costs associated with material flows, this business oriented application of MFA is called material flow cost accounting.  According to the International Organization for Standardization, the aim of material flow cost accounting is to increase cost transparency, support organizational decisions, and improve coordination and communication within companies. 

Let’s say you discover a material flow disruption and a part needs expediting. Someone may have called or emailed you from the production line and now you are already 20 minutes behind in resolving the issue finding a way to keep production flowing. What do you do next? You may call, email, notate a spreadsheet or even go to the warehouse yourself.  

Notice how a breakdown in communication can affect the bottom line? And that there is an opportunity to reduce operating cost by providing real-time visibility? 

Legacy supply chain solutions do not focus on how to handle cases where systems or processes have gaps. Investing in an expedite solution to accept and direct requests and inquiries automatically, may be an organizational decision that MFA can help you make. 

Finding ways to reduce waste or cut it 

When performing a Material Flow Analysis that is essentially what you are looking for. Is this function of the puzzle of value or is this creating waste? Waste in material flow management is anything that does not enhance the product or does not bring value to your customers. Typically, waste is not because your material handler has a bad attitude or skills gap. It’s a process issue that needs improving.   

Use Material Flow Analysis to look for ways to reduce waste or cut it. There are seven common forms of waste that you can evaluate: 

  1. overproduction 
  2. transportation 
  3. motion waste 
  4. waiting 
  5. over-processing 
  6. inventory  
  7. material defects 

Nothing impacts the bottom line more than unused resources. Having a way to track downtime and be able to allocate production resources where they can be utilized is a great way to reduce waste.

How to fix material flow disruptions found during MFA 

Managing material flow should be treated just like any other piece of the operation efficiency mix.  

Real-time inventory visibility, workflow automations, and seamless communication – these all have goals, metrics, and a clear role to play in the overall supply-chain strategy. They’re also repeatable, measurable and optimizable. Managing disruptions and expedites should and can be the same.  

 
Supply Chain Management Tools - StrataFlows
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