Kitting is an important inventory management practice often used to reduce the complexity and increase the efficiency of assembly in a given manufacturing process.

This process is particularly useful in assemblies where a number of small components are needed to complete a specific portion of the product and is necessary for make-to-order products that are highly customized for the end consumer.

In this post, we’ll examine how the kitting process is used in manufacturing, highlighting the many benefits it can provide to a manufacturer’s operation.

What is kitting in manufacturing?

Kitting can be defined as the process of picking and delivering all of the required components required for the assembly of a given product. Kitting can often happen within a manufacturing facility, at a cell away from the primary assembly line, or can be handled by the manufacturing business’ third-party logistics partners.

As discussed, kitting in manufacturing is particularly recommended when production businesses need numerous small parts to make a product. In other instances, the process is well-suited for manufacturers with limited floor space for stacking necessary parts.

Furthermore, kitting comes in handy when a manufacturing business makes customized products for its customers. For instance, kitting is ideal when creating a custom product that requires differently-colored parts or components with differing specifications.

In other instances, workers would waste a considerable amount of time if they went all over the facility in search of all screws and sub-parts needed to make an appliance. So instead, the required parts are availed in their relevant bundles ready for the production line.

Kitting vs. sub-assembly

While kitting is often used interchangeably with sub-assembly, the two processes are quite different. Kitting is typically conducted prior to sub-assembly taking place, where the various parts and components are collected into a kit, at which point they are delivered to a cell where a sub-assembly can take place.

Once the kit is delivered and the sub-assembly is completed, the sub-assembly can then be passed along to the next step in the production line where it is assembled into the final product.

Examples of kitting in a manufacturing process

As discussed there are a few specific business cases that would benefit from a kitting process as part of the broader assembly. They often include assemblies that require many small components where an operator would benefit from having all of the components available to them as they’re completing their tasks.

Additionally, kitting is valuable when customization of the finished product is required and different components, features, or colors are required by the end consumer. Some examples of products that benefit from kitting in the production process include:

  • Custom furniture, appliances, or light fixtures - Custom light fixture manufacturer Rich Brilliant Willing specializes in high-mix, low volume assemblies with hundreds of unique lighting designs. As a result, kitting is crucial for ensuring the right pieces are used in each custom-ordered product.

  • Dental implants - Manufacturers of dental implants like Dentsply process thousands of custom orders each day. Because each individual order is custom to the patient, no two orders are alike, and there are billions of potential kitting combinations.

  • Medical devices - Medical device manufacturers like Laerdal Medical require kitting processes in scenarios where there are a number of different products and devices being assembled and delivered to the end customer.

  • Boat and automobile manufacturing - High-end automobile and boat manufacturers often rely on kitting to ensure that the various parts of the finished product are aligned with customers' expectations. This can include everything from radio and speaker assemblies, to upholstery, trim, and much more.
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Benefits of the kitting process in manufacturing

With an understanding of how kitting is used in a variety of different manufacturing processes, it’s important to touch on the value that kitting presents to businesses. Kitting provides a number of different of benefits, including:

Optimized storage and warehousing

Manufacturing businesses running a lean production model aim to avoid waste as much as possible. In scenarios where kitting is fulfilled by third-party logistics partners, kitting helps businesses reduce waste by minimizing the space needed to store items.

Additionally, by bundling parts, manufacturers need less packaging, allowing them to allocate the free space for other storage needs.

Efficient production process

Because kitting provides all necessary parts to the operator in charge of assembly, production processes can be completed significantly faster and more efficiently. This is because workers don’t have to move all over the factory and storage area looking for individual product components.

Instead, operators are presented with everything they need in a single kit at their workstation, allowing them to spend more time completing the actual assembly.

Improved business profitability

Higher production costs cut into a manufacturer’s profit margin. However, optimized storage and more efficient production can go a long way in cutting down production costs and improving the manufacturing business's profitability.

Better inventory management

Manufacturing operations that use multiple components to craft products benefit significantly from kitting as it pertains to their inventory management.

Instead of going through the lengthy process of defining and appending SKUs and other identifiers to each component, they can bundle elements together and provide a single SKU for that kit. When searching inventory for the parts needed, getting a kit is faster and more convenient than looking up each individual piece.

Additionally, kitting ensures that manufacturers have enough parts to make a product. This is significantly better than finding out that some individual components are defective or insufficient to proceed with production.

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Improving the kitting process with software

Although kitting provides plenty of benefits to a manufacturing business, it presents some hurdles when performed manually.

Manual kitting requires relevant employees to sort through the different boxes to retrieve individual components to make a product. However, being a manual process, this form of kitting presents several points of error. As such, employees on the production line might find themselves working with incompatible parts.

On the other hand, kitting software makes the process more automatic. Additionally, kitting software automates data collection and helps track all of the items used in production, making it essential for manufacturers that require proof of traceability for compliance purposes.

Manage your inventory and improve your kitting process with Tulip

See why manufacturers trust Tulip to improve their inventory management processes with apps that can guide operators through their kitting processes.

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