Cellular manufacturing

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Most commonly used as a manufacturing approach in which equipment and workstations are arranged to facilitate small lot, continuous flow production. In a cell, all operations that are necessary to produce a product or service for a customer are performed in close proximity, often times in a U-shaped layout, thus allowing for quick feedback between operations when problems and other issues arise. Workers in cells are typically cross trained and able to perform multiple tasks as needed.

In an office setting, workers from different departments are co-located near each other in a cell, to increase the work flow, reduce response time to the customer, and break down barriers and silos between departments. Most larger organizations work together in departments (to make it easiest for the manager of that department), but it is better if they are located by product or service, and sit with others who support that product or service.

Example of a work flow organized into a U-shaped cell

In traditional manufacturing environments, similar machines are placed close together (e.g. lathes, mills, drills, presses, painting, cleaning, etc.). These layouts are more robust to machine breakdowns, have common jigs and fixtures in the same area, and support high levels of demarcation. Cellular Manufacturing systems machines are grouped together according to the families of parts produced, which provides a distinct advantage in that material flow is significantly improved, which reduces the distance traveled by materials, inventory, people which increases the overall lead times.

Other examples of efficient layouts, based on how material is replenished to the work stations
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