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The Role Of Heijunka (Load Levelling) In Lean

Heijunka – also known as ‘load levelling’ or ‘production smoothing’ – plays a crucial role in

Lean operations. It focuses on removing inefficiencies by producing a continuous, steady,

and seamless flow of products. As a result, it reduces wasteful practices and enhances

overall production efficiency.

This article will explore Heijunka, its value in Lean operations, and how to successfully

implement Heijunka in your own manufacturing business.

The Role Of Heijunka In Lean

Understanding Heijunka

Heijunka means creating a well-balanced and harmonised production line, which aims to

align processes with the rate of customer demand. It streamlines the production schedule

and reduces overproduction, underproduction, and fluctuating inventory levels. Ultimately,

enables manufacturers to react to customer demands in an orderly production


Benefits of load levelling in operations

Aside from a substantial improvement in production efficiency, Heijunka benefits Lean

operations by…

● Aligning production more closely with actual demand significantly lessens

overproduction, reducing inventory levels and cutting costs.

● Load levelling fosters a highly flexible production environment to respond to

variations in customer demand.

● Minimising fluctuations and disruptions in the production flow, Heijunka

substantially cuts lead times.

● Optimising the use of resources (manpower, machinery, or materials) ensures

● The steady and manageable pace of production ensures better attention to quality,

reducing potential defects.

Practical tips for implementing Heijunka

Heijunka requires a methodical and disciplined approach – and a Heijunka Box is key for

scheduling, load levelling, and speeding up decision-making.

How to use the Heijunka Box

This is a visual scheduling tool that makes it easier to manage and adjust the production


For example, imagine a manufacturing facility that produces four types of widgets: A, B, C,

and D. Each has different customer demands and production complexities – the challenge is

to meet demand efficiently while maintaining smooth production.

1. Creating the Heijunka Box

Your Heijunka Box can be a physical board or digital – each row represents a product type,

and each column a time slot (an hour, a shift, a day, depending on the operation).

2. Filling the Heijunka Box

Production orders are placed into the Heijunka Box based on the demand for each type of

widget. Let’s say, there are 40 of type A requested, 30 of B, 20 of C, and 10 of D in one day.

The production schedule is levelled by distributing these orders evenly throughout the day,

like so:

Heijunka Box

3. Adjusting production

The Heijunka Box makes it easy to visualise the production line and make potential

adjustments to accommodate any changes – without overburdening production or

triggering excessive delays.

4. Monitoring and reviewing

Production managers can easily monitor progress against the schedule. And the team can

review the Heijunka Box to identify any discrepancies between the planned and actual

production, making modifications as necessary.

Bring Heijunka approach to life

● Standardised work: Ensures a seamless transition towards a levelled production.

● Continuous training: Constantly educating the workforce on the principles and

tools of Lean and Heijunka is paramount to foster a culture of Continuous


● Regular monitoring and adjustment: Reviewing the production processes

rigorously – and making adjustments based on feedback and performance metrics

is crucial in aligning the system with the goals of Heijunka.

● Engaging with suppliers: Developing strong supplier relationships and updating

them on schedules enables a steady supply of materials, resulting in a smoother

production flow.

Implement Heijunka with Manufacturers Network

Adopting Heijunka may come with its challenges, but the long-term gains – production

efficiency, customer satisfaction, and operational flexibility – are undeniably rewarding.

When load levelling is correctly implemented, it positively cascades through the

organisation. This nurtures a culture of Lean Continuous Improvement and focuses on

value creation and waste elimination.

To learn more about Heijunka or sign up for one of our courses, please contact us:

● Phone: 0161 533 1617

● Get in touch online



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