DEFINITION of Work Cell
A work cell describes the logical and strategic arrangement of resources in a business environment, organized to improve process flow, increase efficiency and eliminate wastage. The concept of work cells is based on the platform of lean manufacturing, which focuses on value-creation for the end customer and reduction of wastage. Work cells are typically found in manufacturing and office environments.
BREAKING DOWN Work Cell
In a manufacturing facility, the machines involved in the production process would be arranged so that the goods being produced move smoothly and seamlessly from one stage to the next. This would only be possible if the machines are grouped in work cells that facilitate the logical progression of the goods being produced, from raw materials at one end to finished product at the other.
Similarly, in the office context, work cells may facilitate better flow of communication and more efficient use of shared resources.
Cellular manufacturing is a manufacturing process which is a subsection of just-in-time manufacturing and lean manufacturing encompassing group technology. The goal of cellular manufacturing is to move as quickly as possible, make a wide variety of similar products while making as little waste as possible. Cellular manufacturing involves the use of multiple "cells" in an assembly line fashion. A cell is created by consolidating the processes required to create a specific output, such as a part or a set of instructions. These cells allow for the reduction of extraneous steps in the process of creating the specific output, and facilitate quick identification of problems and encourage communication of employees within the cell in order to resolve issues that arise quickly.
Example of a Work Cell
A firm that assembles air-handling products faced high inventories and erratic delivery. They originally assembled units on a traditional line. Long setups and logistics required long production runs. Often, they pulled products from finished goods and rebuilt them for custom orders.
Using a lean methodology, cells were assembled to include twelve small (1-3 person) assembly work cells that were always set up and ready. People worked in different cells each day and assembled products per customer orders. Finished Goods Inventory dropped by 96%, lead-time was 24 hours, and productivity improved by 20%-30%.