Strategos Lean Briefing

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April 22, 2003                                Issue# 12

Balancing The Work In Workcells

Cellular Manufacturing and workcells play a primary role in many Lean Manufacturing strategies. They appear simple, at first glance. In reality, they are complex, sophisticated and, sometimes, delicate socio-technical systems. Optimum workcells require careful design by teams with a deep understanding of their subtleties and nuance.

Work balance is one design issue. Many who are familiar with Ford production lines attempt to balance the time at each workstation. But this is only one of several methods that are available. This "inherent" balance method is difficult with dedicated cells and lines. With mixed-model and GT cells, inherent balance is usually not feasible.

Other methods include Circulation (also known as chaku-chaku) and floating balance. Our web page, Balancing Workcells, examines this issue and shows the various methods for balancing both machines and people. In addition, you may download the paper on this topic that I delivered to the 2000 conference of the Institute of Industrial Engineers. It addresses work cell balance decisions in more detail.

Our next issue of Lean Briefing deals with Takt time and other time elements for designing cells. See you then.

Quarterman Lee

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