The Basics of Self-Balancing Processes: True Lean Continuous Flow, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Basics of Self-Balancing Processes

True Lean Continuous Flow, 1st Edition

By Gordon Ghirann

Productivity Press

108 pages | 74 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2012-02-13
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Self-Balancing is not just a tweak or change to assembly line balancing, but a completely transformed method for achieving continuous flow. Among the reasons you should try Self-Balancing is that you can expect a productivity improvement of at least 30 percent—with improvements of 50-60 percent quite common.

Using a well-tested method for successful improvements initiated by the author, The Basics of Self-Balancing Processes: True Lean Continuous Flow is the first book to explain how to achieve continuous flow in both simple and complex manufacturing environments. It describes how to recognize and resolve weak links to ensure continuous flow in your manufacturing operations.

The book offers rules, tools, and guidelines to help you not only solve problems at the root, but even eliminate them before they start. It reviews the shortcomings of traditional assembly line balancing and walks readers through the new paradigm of Self-Balancing.

The text includes a comprehensive overview that demonstrates the power, flexibility, and breakthroughs possible with this method. Offering solutions to the shortcomings associated with standard line balancing—including inventory buffers, variation, and operator pace—it provides you with the tools and understanding required to deal with batch and off-line processes, debug your line, arrange your parts and tools, and design your own Self-Balanced cells.

Watch Gordon Ghirann discuss how his book can increase the productivity of your business.


Instead of explaining merely the typical approach that seeks to balance the work and operates strictly according to takt time, Gordon’s method takes advantage of the ‘human element’ and releases the full potential of the employees. … Self-Balancing surfaces barriers to flow and provides a framework for the supporting management support system. …Until now, there was no source for this powerful concept outside of some limited research on the web. Gordon, however, has probably experimented more with Self-Balancing than anyone else, so I’m very excited that he has finally brought this powerful concept to you.

—Kirk Paluska, Lean Transformations Group

Table of Contents

Conventional Assembly Line Balancing

Paced Lines

Manual Assembly Lines

Level Loading

Shortcomings of Level Loading

Artificially Balanced

WIP Buffers

Slowest Operator/Station Sets the Pace

Variations in Yield and Cycle Time

Absent Operators

Inflexible, Difficult-to-Adjust Output

Silo Mentality

Repetitive and Monotonous Work for the Line Workers

Moving Beyond Level Loading

A New Paradigm

Conditions for Continuous Flow


Rules to Standardize Self-Balancing

Rule 1: Keep Building Progressively Until Someone Pulls from You

Rule 2: When the Downstream Operator Pulls from You, Walk Upstream to the Next Operator and Pull from Them

Rule 3: If You Catch Up to Someone When Moving Downstream, Wait

Rule 4: Don’t Leapfrog; Everyone Stays in Their Position

Rule 5: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Dealing with Fumbles

Standard Conditions for a Fumble

Nonstandard Conditions for a Fumble

Fumble Rules

Rule 1: Encountering a Fumble When Moving Upstream

Rule 2: Encountering a Fumble When Moving Downstream

Rule 3: Returning to a Fumble

Batch and Off-Line Processing

Curtain Operations


In/Out Tray

Guidelines and Rules for Backbench Operations

Rule 1: Frontline Operators Leave the Line to Perform Backbench Operations on Demand

Rule 2: Operators Communicate When Leaving for the Backbench

Rule 3: Reenter the Frontline in the Same Position

Types of Loading and Unloading

Subassembly Feeder Lines

Rules for Self-Balancing Subassembly Feeder Lines

Rule 1: Going Down the River

Rule 2: Going Up the River

Rules for Subassembly Feeder Line Operators

Rule 1: When Frontline and Feeder Line Are Synchronized

Rule 2: Encountering a Fumbled Subassembly

Debugging the Line

Standard Work


SWIP Inventory

SWIP Increasing

SWIP Decreasing

Additional Debugging

Horizontal Arrangement of Parts and Tools

Benefits and Potential Disadvantages of Horizontal Part and Tool Presentation

Additional Rows of Parts for Mixed-Model Lines

Quick Product Changeover of a Cell

Cell Designs

Cell Design Considerations


Walking Distance

Part-Travel Distance

Cell Layouts

Basic Cell Shapes

Cells with Off-Line Processing

Station Setup

Right-Sized Stations

Vertical Space

Standing Height

Standing Surface



About the Author

Gordon Ghirann received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He began developing the self-balancing methodology in 1998, working at and with several companies, products lines, and processes around the world, sharing, consulting, and teaching along the way. Gordon has been a regularly featured presenter of Workshops at the Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME) conference. He currently resides in California. Visit for more information.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Quality Control
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industries / Manufacturing Industries