What is a manufacturing cell?

Manufacturing cells are sets of machines grouped together based on the products or parts they manufacture. This type of system is used in the concept of cellular manufacturing and differs from the traditional functional manufacturing system, which includes all similar machines.

Manufacturing cells are typically used to increase the efficiency of material flow and to eliminate waste in the manufacturing process.

Key points to remember

  • A manufacturing cell places key people, machinery and supplies in a strategic location.
  • Manufacturing cells can lead to more efficient material flow, increased communication and reduced inventory.
  • Although the capital costs of adding machines to separate cells can be high, the benefits are often well worth it.
  • Manufacturing cells can eliminate waste from overproduction, excess inventory, and overprocessing inefficiencies.

Understanding Manufacturing Cells

A critical step in implementing a cellular manufacturing system is to develop manufacturing cells. This can be difficult because if the same machines are needed in different cells, this can lead to capital requirements. However, the benefits of manufacturing cells, such as higher productivity, better responsiveness to market conditions, and the ability to produce custom goods in small volumes, can more than offset the increased costs.

While crafting cells are often centered around keeping machines nearby, it doesn’t stop there. The cell may also include the strategic placement of key people, tools and supplies. This allows for better communication and allows each worker to see what is happening at all times.

The implementation of cellular manufacturing has proven to be a means of reducing product costs while improving delays and quality. Cells have thrived because they work, and they work in almost all types of manufacturing environments. One of the reasons for the success of cells is that they often eliminate a lot of the waste inherent in a typical manufacturing operation.

Advantages of manufacturing cells

Overproduction is an example of waste because more products are produced than can be used. A manufacturing cell eliminates waste by facilitating the production of what is needed. All operations are nearby and the production process is simplified. In a cellular arrangement, one operator can perform multiple operations, which can improve work balance and simplify product flow.

Overproduction leads to excess inventory, which is the most expensive of all manufacturing waste. Manufacturing cells prevent excess inventory in various ways. First, by balancing work and requiring operators not to exceed what the next person can handle, the inventory of work in progress is reduced. Due to the nature of the cell layout, there is nowhere to put excess inventory. Manufacturing cells solve the vacant space paradox, which says that the amount of vacant space is inversely proportional to the length of time it is vacant.

Finally, manufacturing cells help eliminate the waste associated with overprocessing by keeping processes close together and only manufacturing what can be used immediately. Unnecessary processes, such as packing and unpacking, are eliminated as handling is reduced and what is left has little risk of damage. The parts in the cells are processed earlier, so that all other product protection processes can also be eliminated. The proximity of all operations facilitates the identification of processes that are not add value to the product.

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