Demand flow technology (DFT) is a strategy for defining and deploying business processes in a flow, driven in response to customer demand. DFT is based on a set of applied mathematical tools that are used to connect processes in a flow and link it to daily changes in demand. DFT represents a scientific approach to flow manufacturing for discrete production. It is built on principles of demand pull where customer demand is the central signal to guide factory and office activity in the daily operation. DFT is intended to provide an alternative to schedule-push manufacturing which primarily uses a sales plan and forecast to determine a production schedule.
It was created by John R. Costanza, an executive with operations management experience at Hewlett Packard and Johnson & Johnson. Costanza, who was later nominated as a Nobel Laureate in Economics for Working Capital Management, founded the John Costanza Institute of Technology in Englewood, CO in 1984 to provide consulting and education services for manufacturers to implement the methodology. DFT uses applied mathematical methods to link raw and in-process materials with units of time and production resources in order to create a continuous flow in the factory. The objective is to link factory processes together in a flow and drive it to customer demand instead of to an internal forecast that is inherently inaccurate. Early adopters of DFT included American Standard Companies General Electric and John Deere (Deere & Company). In the early years, DFT was regarded as a method for "just-in-time" (JIT), which advocated manufacturing processes driven to actual customer demand via Kanban. It was introduced as a way for American manufacturers to adopt Japanese production techniques, such as Toyota Production System (TPS), whilst avoiding some of the cultural conflicts in applying Japanese business methods in an American company. Later, it has come to be seen as a lean manufacturing method that allows factories to implement techniques such as one-piece flow, TAKT-based line design, Kanban material management and demand-driven production. Demand Flow Technology is promoted as a method particularly suitable for high-mix, low-volume manufacturing. in 2001, Costanza was awarded a patent for this approach for mixed-model manufacturing.