According to Elwood Spencer Buffa, continuous flow production situations are those where the facilities are standardized as to routings and flow since inputs are standardized. Therefore, a standard set of processes and sequences of process can be adopted. Thus, continuous or flow production refers to the manufacturing of large quantities of a single or at most a very few varieties of products with a standard set of processes and sequences.
The processing is done through a sequence of operations which form a continuous movement or flow. The work flows through a series of interconnected operations in such a way that the material passes from one stage to another without waiting or interruption. Under high volume, standardized production, the operations form a sequence and the conveyors connecting different operations themselves act as storage space.
Steel mills, automobile plants, chemical plants, oil mills, sugar mills, etc., are examples of continuous production system. The main features of continuous production system are as follows :
(i) The volume of output is generally large (mass production), and goods are produced in anticipation of demand.
(ii) The product design, the conversion process and the operations sequence are standardized, i.e., identical products are produced.
(iii) Machines and equipment are arranged according to product layout pattern.
(iv) Special purpose automatic machines are used to perform standardized operations.
(v) Machine capacities are balanced so that materials are fed at one end of the process and finished product is received at the other end.
(vi) Fixed path materials handling equipment is used due to the predetermined sequence of operations.
Advantages of Continuous Production System :
The main advantage of continuous system is that work-in-progress inventory is minimum. As the processing of material is continuous and progressive, there is no waiting period. Each work is passed to the next stage immediately after the previous operation is complete without waiting for the completion of work on the total batch. As as result costs of materials handling are minimized and full use can be made of automation. Few job instructions are needed and less storage space is required, Cost per unit can be minimized by investing in specialized equipment.
Advantage of continuous production system:
Continuous production offers the following advantages :
(a) The quality of output is kept uniform because each stage develops skill through repetition of work.
(b) Any delay at any stage is automatically detected. As a result, there is automatic control of time and the direct labor content is reduced.
(c) Work-in-progress is minimum on account of sequence balancing.
(d) Handling of materials is reduced due to the set pattern of production line.
(e) Control over materials, costs and output is simplified. The repetitive nature of processes make production control easier.
(f) Overhead cost per unit is reduced due to spreading of large fixed costs of specialized equipment over a large volume of output.
(g) There is quick return on capital employed.
Disadvantages of Continuous Production System :
Continuous system, however, is very rigid and if there is a fault in one operation, the entire process is disturbed. Due to continuous flow, it becomes necessary to avoid piling up of work or any blockage on the line. Unless the fault is cleared immediately it will force the preceding as well as the subsequent stages to be stopped.
Suitability of Continuous Production System:
Continuous system is best suited to organizations which intend lo produce a limited variety of products on a large scale. The heavy fixed costs of specialized equipment that are utilized for operating at low cost per unit can be distributed over a high volume of output. Continuous production system can be applied to those industries which satisfy the following requirements :
- (a) Uniform demand.
- (b) High volume of production.
- (c) Product Standardization.
- (d) Process balancing.