Level Loading, also referred to as production leveling, refers to the balanced throughput rates of activities within a process. Balancing a process reduces the non-value added portion of the process cycle time, and removes the waste of items in queue. Level load balancing to reduce waste is a key strategy in Lean thinking.
This reduction in physical inventories improves cash flow and ultimately costs. The money spent on partial or completed work generates no income to the organization until the item is sold.
Inventories hide problems, such as unpredictable or low process yields, equipment failure, or uneven production levels. When inventory exists as Work in Progress, it prevents new orders being processed until the WIP is completed. Although these level loading concepts are most clearly identified with manufacturing processes, they persist in service processes, where inventory may refer to healthcare patients, hamburgers at the fast food, or an unfinished swimming pool under construction.
Level-loaded flow is batch-less, with a shorter cycle time per unit (shorter lead time), increased flexibility, decreased response time and an increase in the percent of value-added activities.
Learn more about the Lean Six Sigma principles and tools for process excellence in Six Sigma Demystified (2011, McGraw-Hill) by Paul Keller, in his online Lean Six Sigma DMAIC short course ($249), or his online Green Belt certification course ($499).