Guide to Heijunka: Reducing Unevenness in the Production Process

Discover the nature of Heijunka in lean manufacturing. Learn effective strategies for reducing production unevenness and optimizing workflow.

Last Updated on April 29, 2024 by Ossian Muscad

Uneven production processes pose significant challenges for companies aiming to maintain a smooth workflow. Fluctuations in demand, production bottlenecks, and other variabilities can disrupt the balance, leading to inefficiencies and increased costs. This is where Heijunka, a concept rooted in Lean manufacturing principles, comes into play.

Heijunka is a Japanese term that translates to “leveling.” It seeks to mitigate unevenness in the production process, thereby creating a more consistent and predictable flow. Through the strategic implementation of Heijunka, businesses can achieve a more balanced workload across their operations, leading to enhanced productivity and reduced waste.

This guide will explore the essence of Heijunka, illustrate how it functions to smooth out production irregularities and provide practical insights into how you can integrate this powerful method into your business operations.


What is Heijunka?

Heijunka is a fundamental concept in Lean manufacturing that focuses on leveling production by volume and type over a specific period. This approach aims to produce goods at a constant rate so that each step in the process—from supply acquisition through production to delivery—operates harmoniously without overburdening any part of the system. By evenly distributing production tasks and workload, companies can better respond to fluctuations in customer demand without the need for excessive inventory levels.

At its core, Heijunka prevents the buildup of work-in-process inventory and reduces lead times, thereby increasing flexibility and enabling a more efficient response to market changes. This leveling technique utilizes tools such as production kanbans and Heijunka boxes to visually manage and schedule production. This allows manufacturers to adapt quickly to demand changes by producing smaller batches of a variety of products rather than producing large quantities of a single item. The ultimate goal of Heijunka is to achieve a balanced and smooth production flow, which leads to improved quality, lower costs, and increased customer satisfaction.


Ways to Level Heijunka

In the dynamic terrain of manufacturing, unevenness in production can manifest in myriad forms, challenging the stability and efficiency of operations. Heijunka, with its laser focus on leveling, zeroes in on two paramount strategies to combat this unevenness: by volume and by type. These methods are geared towards creating a harmonious production flow, ensuring that output is aligned closely with actual demand, thereby enhancing overall productivity and reducing waste.

Leveling by Volume

Leveling by Volume focuses on managing the quantity of each type of product manufactured in a batch. This strategy requires an in-depth analysis of customer demand to determine which products should be prioritized. By adjusting production volume in alignment with demand, manufacturers can avoid overproduction and undersupply scenarios, ensuring that resources are utilized efficiently without wastage. This method not only streamlines inventory levels but also facilitates a smoother production flow, as it minimizes drastic fluctuations in manufacturing activities. Implementing Leveling by Volume helps create a more predictable and steady demand-supply equilibrium, contributing significantly to the reduction of lead times and improvement in customer satisfaction.

Leveling by Type

On the other hand, Leveling by Type emphasizes the importance of the diversity of products being manufactured in each batch. It involves sequencing different products within the production cycle to maintain the necessary variety to meet market demand. This strategy is particularly crucial for businesses that offer a wide range of products and need to ensure consistent availability of their entire catalog to their customer base. By scheduling production in a way that various products are produced on a weekly or monthly basis, companies can adeptly respond to shifts in market preferences without compromising on lead times or inventory management. Leveling by Type supports operational flexibility, allowing manufacturers to adapt their production plans swiftly to cater to changing consumer needs.


Ways to Implement Heijunka

There are many different ways to implement Heijunka into your business. The best way to do this is to assess your production process and see where Heijunka can benefit most. Once you understand how Heijunka works, you can start to implement it into your own business. Methods for implementing Heijunka include:

Use Heijunka Boards

Heijunka Boards serve as a visual management tool to help implement the Heijunka process effectively within a manufacturing setup. These boards display both the schedule of production and the mix of products to be produced, offering a clear, at-a-glance view of daily and weekly production plans. Using cards or magnets to represent different tasks or products, Heijunka Boards facilitate easy adjustments to the production queue, ensuring flexibility and responsiveness to demand fluctuations. This visual method aids in distributing the workload evenly across machines and workers, significantly minimizing bottlenecks and improving overall workflow efficiency.

Create a Heijunka Schedule

Creating a Heijunka Schedule involves defining a fixed sequence or pattern of production that balances the variety and volume of output over a given time. This scheduling technique aims to standardize production operations, making it possible to produce smaller batches of a variety of products more frequently, thus aligning production more closely with actual demand. By planning production in this detailed and structured manner, companies can reduce lead times and inventory costs while increasing their ability to respond swiftly to market changes.

Use Heijunka Tags

Heijunka Tags are physical or digital tags used to communicate production instructions clearly within the manufacturing process. These tags can specify details such as the product type, quantity, and the sequence in which products should be manufactured. They are an integral part of the Heijunka box system and help visually organize production schedules. Ensuring precise communication of what needs to be produced and when Heijunka Tags facilitates the smooth execution of the production plan and helps prevent overproduction and underproduction.

Use Heijunka Software

Incorporating Heijunka Software into production planning processes allows businesses to leverage technology for more sophisticated scheduling and workload leveling. This software can analyze production data in real-time, enabling managers to make informed decisions regarding adjustments to the production schedule to meet demand variations. Heijunka software solutions often feature simulation capabilities, allowing for the evaluation of different production scenarios and their potential impact. This enhances the flexibility and responsiveness of manufacturing systems, culminating in improved productivity and reduced waste.


Advantages of Implementing Heijunke

Implementing Heijunka in the manufacturing process brings about a significant transformation, optimizing operations for enhanced performance and customer satisfaction. By attentively addressing the root causes of production challenges, Heijunka leads to a more balanced, efficient, and adaptable production system. These benefits manifest in several key areas, as explored below.

Reducing Unevenness in the Production Process

The Heijunka method crucially mitigates the inconsistencies in the production process by evenly distributing the workload across available resources. This strategic leveling prevents the overburdening of machinery and personnel, thereby reducing bottlenecks and ensuring a smoother, more predictable production flow. This consistency is vital for meeting deadlines and maintaining a steady output, ultimately making the manufacturing process more reliable and efficient.

Waste Reduction

By closely aligning production with actual demand, Heijunka significantly cuts down on waste generated from overproduction, unnecessary inventory, and excess motion within the production process. This lean manufacturing principle of reducing waste not only leads to cost savings but also contributes to more sustainable production practices. The minimization of waste is a key component of improving overall operational effectiveness and environmental stewardship.

Improved Productivity

Heijunka facilitates a streamlined production process that enhances overall productivity. Leveling the volume and variety of production tasks minimizes idle time and ensures that resources are utilized effectively. The systematic approach to scheduling and task allocation allows companies to produce more with less, improving throughput times and increasing output without compromising quality.

Improved Quality

The focus on balanced production processes helps maintain a consistent quality level in the products manufactured. With Heijunka, the attention to detail and pacing of work reduces the likelihood of errors and defects, leading to a higher standard of product quality. Improved quality not only meets but often exceeds customer expectations, reinforcing brand reputation and loyalty.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

Heijunka directly contributes to enhanced customer satisfaction by ensuring products are available when needed, eliminating lengthy wait times and unpredictable delays. The method’s emphasis on aligning production with demand means that customers receive their products in a timely manner, meeting or even surpassing their expectations. This reliability and responsiveness to customer needs foster stronger relationships and can lead to increased customer retention.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: How do you determine the appropriate mix and volume for Heijunka scheduling?

Determining the mix and volume for Heijunka scheduling involves analyzing customer demand to identify patterns and trends. This analysis enables the creation of a production plan that matches the variety and quantity of products to the actual sales data, ensuring a balance between supply and demand.

Q2: Can Heijunka be applied in industries other than manufacturing, such as services?

Yes, Heijunka can be adapted for use in service industries by leveling the workload across resources to avoid peaks and troughs in demand. This involves scheduling services or workload in a way that aligns more closely with customer demand, just as it does in manufacturing.

Q3: How does Heijunka address sudden spikes or drops in demand?

Heijunka deals with sudden changes in demand by maintaining a certain level of flexibility in the production schedule. This flexibility allows for quick adjustments to the production plan, leveraging Heijunka Tags or software to reallocate resources and adapt to changing requirements effectively.

Q4: Is Heijunka applicable to small-scale operations or startups?

Yes, Heijunka can be beneficial for small-scale operations and startups by helping them optimize their production processes, reduce waste, and improve responsiveness to customer demand. The principles of Heijunka can be scaled to fit the size and capacity of the business.

Q5: What are the common challenges in implementing Heijunka, and how can they be overcome?

Common challenges include resistance to change, difficulty in accurately forecasting demand, and the need for initial investment in training and possibly new technology. Overcoming these challenges involves clear communication of the benefits, involving employees in the process change, and starting with small, manageable adjustments before fully implementing Heijunka.

Q6: How does Heijunka contribute to sustainability efforts within manufacturing?

Heijunka contributes to sustainability by reducing waste throughout the production process, which includes minimizing overproduction, decreasing energy consumption, and lowering the carbon footprint associated with manufacturing. By aligning production more closely with actual demand, companies can not only become more efficient but also more environmentally responsible.


Streamline Heijunka with DATAMYTE

DATAMYTE is a quality management platform with low-code capabilities. Our Digital Clipboard, in particular, is a low-code workflow automation software that features a workflow, checklist, and smart form builder. This tool lets you build and customize your Heijunka processes to fit the unique needs of your business.

DATAMYTE also lets you conduct layered process audits (LPA), a high-frequency evaluation of critical process steps, focusing on areas with the highest failure risk or non-compliance. Conducting LPA with DATAMYTE lets you effectively identify and correct potential defects before they become major quality issues.

With DATAMYTE, you have an all-in-one solution for streamlining Heijunka and improving overall production efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction. Book a demo now to learn more about how we can help you implement Heijunka in your organization.  



Heijunka is a potent tool for reducing unevenness in the production process and creating a more efficient workflow. Implementing this lean method in your business can result in increased productivity, waste reduction, and improved quality. Efficiently distributing production tasks significantly decreases the stress on your resources and ensures a steady output pace, which ultimately leads to higher customer satisfaction.

Integrating Heijunka into your operational practices encourages a cultural shift towards continuous improvement and environmental responsibility. Although challenges may arise during its adoption, the long-term benefits of establishing a more predictable and flexible production system are undisputed. In today’s fast-paced and environmentally conscious market, leveraging Heijunka can give businesses a considerable competitive edge while fostering sustainability.



Related Articles: