Production lines and interdependent process stages can be a nightmare for manufacturing inventory management but understanding the use of management techniques such as decoupling inventory can ease the load in various stages of production.
Decoupling inventory acts as a buffer against breakdowns in machine production rates that would prevent the next stage of production from being completed. In this way, it is similar to buffer inventory or anticipatory stock because of the ultimate goal of allowing continuous product supply to customers.
For companies dealing with manufacturing inventory and production lines, decoupling inventory is used to create independence between processes that rely on the output of prior processes, acting as an intermediate stock. The important difference between this and safety stock is that it is a buffer against internal demand, rather than external.
How can decoupling prevent manufacturing inventory issues?
Regarding manufacturing inventory, the process of decoupling reduces the pressure on production lines in case of breakdown or unanticipated interruption. For this reason, decoupling the flow of materials being received at a workstation from an upstream process allows for the continuous production of the final product, rather than delays caused by issues in the first stages of production.
While synchronisation between operations would be ideal, it is difficult to achieve, and therefore decoupling allows for production to continue as smoothly as possible. The independence between stages means different stages can be scheduled somewhat independently of each other, allowing for routine maintenance or repairs to happen without affecting the final production rate.
Is decoupling right for your business?
While idle manufacturing inventory is not ideal, this option far outweighs that of stopping machinery, which incurs additional costs for set up, repairs, idle time depreciation and damages. Because of the risks of idle inventory, specifically in the production stages, it is important to have an accurate management system to ensure all product is used. Adequate manufacturing inventory management software enables the tracking of products and components throughout the process, meaning accurate accounts of stock levels can be obtained. Using this data, businesses can predict product output rates and plan for future demand, meaning less waste of idle stock and lower chances of stock outages.
Manufacturing inventory management can be challenging when production line operations function at different speeds. To maintain an adequate flow of final products being produced, the use of decoupled inventory manages this discrepancy and allows for a buffer to be produced between internal operations. This accounts for breakdowns in machinery or other malfunctions that would otherwise reduce production rates. The purpose of this type of inventory management is to maintain a constant flow of products delivered. By efficiently managing inventory with capable software, decoupled inventory can be a valuable tool for preventing product inconsistency and therefore improving customer delivery.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.