What Is a Work Cell?

A work cell is a logical and strategic arrangement of resources in a business environment. These arrangements are put into place to organize and improve process flow, increase efficiency, reduce costs, 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, which are also referred to as workcells, are typically found in manufacturing and office environments.

Understanding Work Cells

A work cell is generally set up in order to complete a specific activity, most often in the manufacturing industry. It is the grouping of machines, people, and other equipment companies use in their production process. These cells are often implemented to cut down the costs associated with production and to ramp up productivity. Many companies also significantly reduce the rate of error by putting work cells into place.

In a manufacturing facility, the machines involved in the production process would be arranged so 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.

Work cells are a product of the lean manufacturing process.

Work cells may also be found in the office or administrative departments. In this context, work cells may facilitate a better flow of communication and more efficient use of shared resources.

Cellular Manufacturing

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, facilitate quick identification of problems, and encourage communication of employees within the cell in order to resolve issues that arise quickly.

Key Takeaways

  • A work cell is a term used to describe the logical and strategic arrangement of resources in a business environment including people, machinery, and other equipment.
  • Work cells are based on the platform of lean manufacturing, which focuses on value creation for the end customer and reduction of wastage.
  • In the office or administrative context, work cells may facilitate a better flow of communication and more efficient use of shared resources.

Example of a Work Cell

Let's say a firm that assembles air-handling products faces high inventories and erratic delivery. It originally assembled units on a traditional production line. Long setups and logistics required long production runs. It often found that it had to pull products from finished goods and rebuilt them for custom orders.

Using a lean methodology, the company assembles cells to include twelve small—one to three-person—assembly work cells that were always set up and ready. People now work in different cells each day and assemble products per customer orders. Finished goods inventory dropped by 96%, lead-time was 24 hours, and productivity improved by as much as 30%.