In The Basic Flow Of Inventory Through A Manufacturing System Lean Cell Systems and Plant Flow – Rapid Production With Lower Costs

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Lean Cell Systems and Plant Flow – Rapid Production With Lower Costs

As manufacturers, we’re always looking for ways to make things work faster, cheaper, and easier. Often, the approach we take involves re-evaluating the production elements within the plant that are disrupting system flow. In such an analysis, we consider the operation as a whole in search of efficiencies in the parts. In short, in order to increase productivity while responding quickly to rapidly changing customer demands, we try to make full use of the resources available to our facility. At the same time, the modern manufacturer strives for total enterprise resource planning (ERP), which ensures that all plant elements are coordinated with each other. In the evolution of ERP as a manufacturing concept, the idea of ​​work center management came to the fore as the site of the greatest efficiency gains.

Although pull manufacturing techniques certainly strive for just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing methods, efficiencies that could be gained in other plant operations are sometimes lost in expensive setups and indirect labor costs associated with unproductive plant time. In order to overcome these negatives, lean cell was developed to take advantage of repetitive unit production and physical plant space. Based on sound ergonomic principles, in a lean cell operators work very close to each other – so close that they can just hand each other pieces. In a classic lean work cell, an ERP operation can maximize production efficiency through some of the most basic lean principles:

  1. Continuous flow: By using shaded tool panels and delivering materials prior to assembly to the cell, the lean work center eliminates most non-value-added (ie, indirect cost) operator movement. In other words, the lean cell becomes a place of efficiency where value-added to value-added operations are realized.
  2. Deployment and reconfiguration efficiency: By isolating repetitive manufacturing processes into a single space, costs and time for setting up and reconfiguring cells are significantly reduced. This results in maximum change with minimal downtime in relatively uninterrupted plant flow.
  3. Improved quality: With the opportunity for immediate feedback through quality inspection, the lean cell reduces waste and promotes continuous improvement – the principle of lean manufacturing. In addition, by using simple machinery in the cell, replacement of faulty devices is usually quick and easy.
  4. JIT delivery: Not only do parts arrive in the cell when needed, but the lean cell’s rapid flow of single-part (or small) batches means that pull production is maximized at every step along the system flow. In addition, non-cyclical work is performed by support staff located outside the cell. All these factors help in eliminating inventory and work in progress.

Ultimately, the proper use of the lean cell system in ERP operations significantly shortens the production cycle time. From the receipt of the order by the order entry clerk to the shipment of finished products from the plant, production time has been reduced and JIT pull-manufacturing has been improved. In addition, with minimized overhead costs through ergonomic continuous flow design, lean cell manufacturing increases the all-important bottom line profit margin.

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