The Product Wheel Handbook: Creating Balanced Flow in High-Mix Process Operations, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Product Wheel Handbook

Creating Balanced Flow in High-Mix Process Operations, 1st Edition

By Peter L. King, Jennifer S. King

Productivity Press

219 pages | 88 B/W Illus.

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The Product Wheel (PW) design process has practical methods for finding the optimum sequence, minimizing changeover costs, and freeing up useful capacity. So much so, that the DuPont™ Company and Exxon Mobil are just a few companies that have used the product wheel concept to achieve and sustain a competitive advantage.

Breaking down a fairly complex design process into manageable steps, The Product Wheel Handbook: Creating Balanced Flow in High-Mix Process Operations walks readers through the process for designing and implementing the PW technique. It includes a case study taken from actual practice that illustrates the design process and its benefits. Describing how to apply the product wheel technique to any manufacturing operation, the book:

  • Details the steps required to implement product wheels
  • Explains why certain traditional manufacturing metrics should be reevaluated so they don’t inhibit product wheel performance
  • Defines the cultural foundation necessary for smooth product wheel design and implementation
  • Includes a real-world case study and several examples of product wheels being used by successful manufacturing companies—including BG Products, Inc., the DuPont™ Company, the Dow Chemical Company, and Appleton

Many of the steps in wheel design described in this book are not new. What’s new is their application to production planning and scheduling problems, and more importantly, a clear roadmap explaining how and when they should be used in product wheel design.

Supplying you with the tools to reduce the chaos often found in production scheduling, the book outlines a disciplined structure that will allow you to spend less of your time resolving schedule problems. Most importantly, it provides your organization with a stable platform to deal with abnormal events in a less stressful and more logical manner.


Peter L. and Jennifer S. King, authors of The Product Wheel Handbook, have provided excellent strategies for implementing product wheels and improving an existing product wheel process. … Written in a clear, concise manner, this book is a how-to manual for product wheel design, implementation, maintenance, and continuous improvement. The authors integrate principles with concepts in a way that is practical and easy to understand. … If you are tasked to implement product wheels or want to learn more about how they can lead to improvements, you will find The Product Wheel Handbooka valuable reference.

—Book review by Alan R. Leigh CSCP, CPIM, and Randy Woehl appearing in APICS, January 2014

Peter King continues to be a thought leader in the spread of advanced manufacturing practices throughout the process industries. His product wheel concepts and practices are an excellent resource for plants with multiple products sharing the operating assets.

—Ray Floyd, Shingo Prize-winning author of Liquid Lean and member of IndustryWeek's Manufacturing Hall of Fame

The authors have a gift for writing well, in a way that will keep the reader connected throughout this excellent work. It flows through the methodology in a well structured and logical way and could only be written by someone who has lived through product wheel implementation many times … definitely a must-read for any Lean practitioner.

—Henrique Fagundes, Senior Project Manager, DuPont

The product wheel is a true landmark in the management and organization of the workplace. All manufacturing operations searching for a way to organize and level the factory should have this book.

—Cash Powell, Jr., Editorial Board, Target Magazine; Association for Manufacturing Excellence; Lead Consultant, Center for Competitive Change, University of Dayton

A clearly written guide to designing and improving product wheels … . Pete and Jennifer King take you through a logical step-by-step process without ever resorting to simplistic recipes. This book will be valuable to businesses where both pull and push systems apply. Highly recommended!

—Peter C. Compo, Director of Integrated Business Management, DuPont

The Dow Chemical Company has used The Product Wheel Handbook for good communication and collaboration between functions. We highly recommend this book as it is a logical layout with step by step implementation instructions. … Not only did our processes become more efficient but our teams were able to understand a new process that they can apply in different applications in the work process. We recommend this book to any company looking to apply lean concepts specifically in the process industry and also for leaders who are looking for applications to help explain such processes to their employees.

—Martin Fernandes, Supply Chain Innovation Director, Dow Chemical

—Shannon Hemmelgarn, Supply Chain Business Planner, Dow Chemical

The views expressed in this review are of the authors alone and do not represent the views of The Dow Chemical Company

Table of Contents


Why Product Wheels?

Process Industry Challenges

Product Wheel Basics

The Problem: Production Sequencing, Campaign Sizing, Production Leveling

Challenges Facing Operations Managers—Production Leveling Challenges Facing Operations Managers—Random Sequence or Regular Pattern?

Challenges Facing Operations Managers—Optimum Sequence

Challenges Facing Operations Managers—Optimum Cycle

The Insidious Nature of Changeovers

The Solution—Product Wheels

Product Wheels Defined

Product Wheel Terminology

Simultaneous Operating Modes

Product Wheel Characteristics

Process Improvement Time

Benefits of Product Wheels

Product Wheel Applicability

The Product Wheel Design and Implementation Process

Product Wheel Design

Step 1: Begin with an up-to-date, reasonably accurate value stream map (VSM)

Step 2: Decide where to use wheels to schedule production

Step 3: Analyze product demand volume and variability—identify candidates for make to order

Step 4: Determine the optimum sequence

Step 5: Analyze the factors influencing overall wheel time

Step 6: Determine overall wheel time and wheel frequency for each product

Step 7: Distribute products across the wheel cycles—balance the wheel

Step 8: Plot the wheel cycles

Step 9: Calculate inventory requirements

Step 10: Review with stakeholders

Step 11: Determine who "owns" (allocates) the PIT time

Step 12: Revise the scheduling process

Product Wheel Implementation

Step 13: Develop an implementation plan

Step 14: Develop a contingency plan

Step 15: Get all inventories in balance

Step 16: Put an auditing plan in place

Step 17: Put a plan in place to rebalance the wheel periodically

Kaizen Events

Prerequisites for a Product Wheel

Step 1: Begin with an Up-to-Date, Reasonably Accurate VSM

An Example Process—Sheet Goods Manufacturing

A Value Stream Map

Material Flow—Process Boxes

Process Step Data Boxes

Material Flow Icons

Inventory Data Boxes

Information Flow


Step 2: Decide Where to Use Wheels to Schedule Production

Criteria for Product Wheel Selection

Analyze the VSM

Forming 1

Bonder 2

Bonder 1

Slitter 1


Step 3: Analyze Products for a Make-to-Order Strategy

Demand Volume

Demand Variability

Deciding on the Best Strategy for Each Product


Step 4: Determine the Optimum Sequence

Changeover Complexity

Optimizing the Forming 2 Sequence

Optimizing the Sequence in Complex Situations


Step 5: Analyze the Factors Influencing Overall Wheel Time

Time Available for Changeovers—The Shortest Wheel Possible

Finding the Most Economic Wheel Time

Leveling Out Short-Term Demand Variability

An Additional Word about Standard Deviation and CV

Making Practical Lot Sizes of Each Material

Protecting Shelf Life

Making to Stock Using a Trigger Point


Step 6: Put It All Together—Determine Overall Wheel Time and Wheel Frequency for Each Product

EOQ—The Most Economic Wheel Time

The Shortest Wheel Possible

Short-Term Demand Variability

Minimum Practical Lot Size

Shelf Life


Step 7: Arranging Products—Balancing the Wheel

Wheel Resonance

Achieving Better Balance

Wheels within Wheels


Step 8: Plotting the Wheel Cycles


Step 9: Calculate Inventory Requirements

Inventory Components

Total Inventory Requirements

Inventory Benefit of the Wheel


Customer Lead Time


Step 10: Review with Stakeholders

What to Review

Who to Include

Possible Concerns and Challenges


Step 11: Assign Responsibility for Allocating PIT Time

Appropriate Uses of PIT Time

Step 12: Revise the Scheduling Process

Wheel Concepts and the Production Scheduling System

Visual Management of the Current Wheel Schedule


Step 13: Develop an Implementation Plan

Step 14: Develop a Contingency Plan

Possible Wheel Breakers

Steps in Contingency Planning

Example of a Contingency Plan


Step 15: Get All Inventories in Balance


Step 16: Confirm Wheel Performance—Put an Auditing Process in Place

Step 17: Put a Plan in Place to Rebalance the Wheel Periodically

Prerequisites for Product Wheels

Foundational Elements

A Highly Motivated, Well-Trained Workforce

Standard Work

Visual Management

Total Productive Maintenance

A Value Stream Map


SKU Rationalization—Portfolio Management

Bottleneck Identification and Management

Cellular Manufacturing and Group Technology


Product Wheels and the Path to Pull

Product Wheels and Pull

Pull through the Entire Process


Unintended Consequences—Inappropriate Use of Metrics

Inappropriate Use of Metrics

Performance to Plan (PTP)


Cultural Transformation and Product Wheel Design—The Synergy


Case Studies and Examples

BG Products, Inc.—Automotive Fluids

The Appleton Journey

Dupont™ Fluoropolymers

Dow Chemical

Extruded Polymers

Waxes to Coat Cardboard

Sheet Goods for Hospital Gowns

Circuit Board Substrates

Fixed-Sequence Variable Volume

A Rose by Any Other Name



Appendix A: Cycle Stock Concepts and Calculations

Inventory Components Defined—Cycle Stock and Safety Stock

Calculating Cycle Stock—Fixed-Interval Replenishment Model


Appendix B: Safety Stock Concepts and Calculations

About Safety Stock

Variability in Demand

Variability in Wheel Time

Combined Variability

Using Safety Stock

Example—Forming Machine 2 Product Wheel

Appendix C: Total Productive Maintenance

The Need for Equipment Reliability and Operational Continuity


TPM Metric—Overall Equipment Effectiveness

Forming 2 OEE

Appendix D: The SMED Changeover Improvement Process

SMED Origins

SMED Concepts

Product Changeovers in the Process Industries


Appendix E: Bottleneck Identification, Improvement, and Management

Root Causes of Bottlenecks

Bottleneck Management—Theory of Constraints


Appendix F: Group Technology and Cellular Flow

Typical Process Plant Equipment Configurations

Cellular Manufacturing Applied to Process Lines



About the Authors

Jennifer S. King is an operations research analyst with a government contractor, analyzing operational impacts of emerging Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) technologies and developing cost and performance models to support airline investment decisions. Prior to that, she spent 5 years with the Department of Defense developing discrete event simulation models to assist the army in setting reliability requirements for new platforms, and analyzing performance of weapon systems alternatives. Her prior publishing experience includes editing textbooks and developing mathematics problems and solutions for ExploreLearning.

Jennifer has degrees in mathematics and psychology from the University of Virginia, and a master’s degree in operations research from the University of Delaware. She is a member of INFORMS.

Peter L. King is the president of Lean Dynamics, LLC, a manufacturing improvement consulting firm located in Newark, Delaware. Prior to founding Lean Dynamics, Pete spent 42 years with the DuPont™ Company in a variety of control systems, manufacturing systems engineering, continuous flow manufacturing, and Lean manufacturing assignments. That included 18 years applying Lean manufacturing techniques to a wide variety of products, including sheet goods such as DuPont Tyvek®, Sontara®, and Mylar®; fibers such as nylon, Dacron®, Lycra®, and Kevlar®; automotive paints; performance lubricants; bulk chemicals; adhesives; electronic circuit board substrates; and biological materials used in human surgery. On behalf of DuPont, he consulted with key customers in the processed food and carpet industries. He retired from DuPont in 2007, leaving a position as principal consultant in the Lean Center of Competency. Recent clients have included producers of sheet goods, lubricants and fuel additives, and polyethylene and polypropylene pellets.

Pete received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech, graduating with honors. He is Six Sigma Green Belt certified (DuPont, 2001), Lean manufacturing certified (University of Michigan, 2002), and a Certified Supply Chain Professional (APICS, 2010). He is a member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, APICS, and the Institute of Industrial Engineers where he served as president of IIE’s Process Industry Division in 2009–2010.

Pete is the author of Lean for the Process Industries—Dealing with Complexity (Productivity Press, 2009), and several published articles on the application of Lean concepts to process operations. He has been an invited speaker at several professional conferences and meetings.

DuPont™ Tyvek®, Sontara®, and Kevlar® are trademarks or registered trademarks of E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company. Mylar® is a trademark of DuPont Teijin Films; Dacron® and Lycra® are trademarks of Koch.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Quality Control
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industrial Management