A manufacturing cell, also known as a cellular manufacturing, is a lean manufacturing approach where similar products or components are grouped together to be produced in a single area (cell). This is often a part of a larger system called cellular manufacturing, which aims to reduce waste and increase efficiency by arranging machines in close proximity and sequence that corresponds to the order in which operations are performed on a workpiece.
Each cell is designed to produce a complete item or a significant part of an item, to minimize movement and waiting time. Workers within the cell are often cross-trained and can perform multiple steps in the process. This layout reduces lead times, inventory handling, and work-in-progress inventory.
For example, in a furniture manufacturing company, one cell might be dedicated to making table tops, another to assembling legs, another to finishing and varnishing, etc. Each cell would contain all the necessary tools, materials, and expertise to complete its part of the process. This approach contrasts with traditional production line methods, where each worker specializes in one small part of the manufacturing process, and the product has to be moved long distances around the plant.
Example of a Manufacturing Cell
Let’s consider an example of a bicycle manufacturing company to illustrate a manufacturing cell.
This company has decided to organize its manufacturing floor into several dedicated cells each handling a specific part of the bicycle assembly process.
- Frame Cell: The first cell is responsible for frame construction. Here, workers weld the metal tubes together to form the bicycle’s frame. All necessary equipment and materials for this process are located within this cell.
- Wheel Assembly Cell: The next cell is dedicated to wheel assembly. Workers here fit the spokes, rims, and tires together to create the complete wheel. Again, everything needed for this process is located within this cell.
- Component Attachment Cell: The third cell handles the attachment of various components to the frame. This includes the handlebars, pedals, brakes, gears, and so on.
- Inspection and Packaging Cell: The final cell is responsible for inspecting the finished bicycles for any defects or issues. Once inspected and approved, the bicycles are then packaged and prepared for shipment from this cell.
In this scenario, each cell is self-contained, handling a specific part of the manufacturing process from start to finish. The setup minimizes movement of parts and materials, increases efficiency, and allows for better quality control as each cell can quickly identify and correct any issues in their specific area. This system also allows for quicker response to demand changes and less work-in-progress inventory.