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Basic principles of Cellular Manufacturing

Cellular Manufacturing or One-Piece Flow Systems are work units (cells) arranged in such a manner that parts and materials of a whole product can be done in the most stream-lined manner possible.Instead of making multiple parts of a project before sending it down the line to the next production point, products are made and then passed on immediately.This eliminates delay or waste as it is more commonly referred to as in lean manufacturing.Not only is there a focus on the flow of the product, but also on the flow of the employees.Stations are designed for people to also be able to work on various points in the line of production in the most space-saving way possible.

This type of specialized production Cellular Manufacturing use also often entails utilizing specific equipment and machinery for each piece in the line.Machinery and equipment must be designed to fit the specific specifications of the product so that the machine can alert the operator if a malfunction has occurred or if there is any error in the product.This technique is called autonomation and allows workers to turn their attention to other operations and simply be alerted if their efforts need to be re-directed.

Although the use of highly specialized machinery is important in Cellular Manufacturing, it does not replace the necessity of human involvement. For example, in the construction of an automobile, there are many tools used to create an efficient assembly line set-up.However, even today, employees are needed to start and stop operations as they observe the abilities and efficiencies of their mechanical counterparts.There needs to be a team ready to address issues of mechanical malfunction.

Cellular manufacturing, if done correctly, can be quite complicated.But the benefits are many.It is a challenge to combine the right people, skills, personalities, functions, and operating tools.But when the right mix is achieved the results are profound.The idea behind cellular manufacturing is to create as many near-perfect "cells" as possible.If all of the cells are working productively in their own design, they make up the pieces of an overall more efficient whole.

What are some basic principles that make an effective "Cell" or "Workcell"?
1. Simplicity is key:Have one cell be highly specialized.Those belonging to a cell should know exactly what they are responsible for and should have all the tools necessary to carry out the purposes of that cell.
2. Know how to make effective changes:Know your equipment.If something goes wrong or a faulty product is made, know how to adjust the process to fix the problem.Develop or seek out highly specialized tools that cut out any wasted time, labor, or materials.
3. Cell spacing: Knowing that each cell needs to have its own specific purpose, grouping like cells together improves overall flow.When cells need to council with each other, having other cells most similar to their type of work in special proximity cuts out waste, improves coordination, and enhances company teamwork.
4. Sizing: the size of your cells and the total number of cells needed will, of course, vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.Some suggest that each cell should have 3-12 people and that there be 5-15 cells in like areas.
5. Job rotation/cross training: training of employees to be able to perform the responsibilities of multiple cells is advantageous.Doing so will allow for all assignments/positions within the organization to be filled regardless of whether or not every employee is present.Also, when an employee is educated in the workings of other cells he is able to have a better perspective of the project as a whole and can appreciate and accommodate the efforts of other members of the organization.

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