In Part 5 of our “Effective Ways to Reduce Manufacturing Costs” series, we discussed how standardization supports the concepts of build-to-order and mass customization. By making all parts available at all points of use, standardization improves flexibility and reduces costs for manufacturers. There are many different approaches to standardization; however, in this article we will be discussing the Zero-Based Principle.

The zero-based principle is an effective technique which reduces the number of different parts (part types) by standardizing on certain preferred parts. While this usually applies to purchased parts, it can also apply to manufactured parts. Founded upon the zero-based principle, this technique asks: “What is the minimum list of part types needed to design new products?”

This approach works best if companies are at the beginning stage of developing a product line. Before product development begins, the company needs to decide which parts are essential in creating the product line. By developing the entire line around common parts, companies can eliminate excess parts and save on manufacturing costs.

The idea of this approach is to start at zero and add only what is necessary for the creation of the product rather than eliminating products from a long list. Eliminating parts from your current list would take a great amount of effort and time. The zero-based approach is the more efficient and effective route.

While many approaches remove excess parts from an existing system, the zero-based approach excludes the excess parts from the beginning. This saves significant costs as excess parts incur overhead costs for administration and lower the manufacturing plant’s efficiency and machine performance.

Companies must remember that this approach is meant to be implemented at the beginning of a new project, not in the middle of a current product line. However, when the common parts are functionally equivalent in all respects, parts may be eliminated on existing products and replaced with equivalent parts.

Implementing standardization within a manufacturing plant requires the right tools. Download our “How to Choose a Manufacturing System” guide to see if your current system will be a help or a hindrance to implementing standardization and reducing your manufacturing costs.