WIP is a commonly used abbreviation in manufacturing meaning ‘Work in Progress’ or ‘Work in Process.’ These items are items that are no longer raw materials, but still require further work, processing, assembly, or inspection before it can be considered a finished product. Items or products that have yet to be delivered or payment has yet to be received are both considered a work in progress. WIPs can also be considered items that have been received at the factory but have not been delivered to the customer.
Another way to look at WIP’s is that once raw materials have gone through any type of value-adding process, they are considered as a work in progress. In manufacturing, WIP is considered a type of inventory and should be closely kept track of. Having excess inventory is considered a waste because these unfinished products can tie up cash for periods of time, take up valuable space in a facility, or occupy unnecessary space in high-traffic areas. Ultimately, keeping WIPs moving through the manufacturing process will affect the bottom line. If a facility is going through a Lean transformation, it will be important to analyze the manufacturing process and see where WIP is resulting in wastes that can be eliminated.
A manager can identify areas that WIP is held up or delayed is by conducting a bottleneck analysis. Conducting this analysis will help to identify areas with bottlenecks, spots in the process that often gets backed up for one reason or another, and lead to solutions to get work flowing at a steadier pace. There are a handful of solutions that work to eliminate bottlenecks including adjusting the flow, eliminating wasted steps, adding staff, or reducing production. Implementing one or more of these solutions can keep manufacturing items moving swiftly from raw materials, to work in progress, to a finished product.