Cell production is a form of mass production that divides work into teams known as cells. Each cell is managed to achieve goals such as quality, efficiency and waste reduction. The following are illustrative examples.
A piano manufacturer assembles 6 pianos concurrently in 6 cells. Cells take components and parts as inputs and produce completed pianos. Each cell has 5 members on each shift with every member full trained on all steps that are required to produce a finished product. Teamwork is emphasized and teams essentially compete to achieve the highest levels of quality, efficiency and productivity. Each serial number can be traced back to the team that built it. Teams are rewarded based on quality metrics such as the rate of quality control defects and problems with the product while under warranty. Teams are kept together for a period of 2 years and then rotated. All members are given training to become a team manager. Responsibility for management is rotated and managers have no special status.
ScalingAn electronics manufacturer produces game systems in a series of 8 steps. Some steps take machines 8 minutes and other steps take machines 30 seconds. Steps that are slow have multiple cells so that the step doesn't become a bottleneck. This allows the entire line to run on a 30 second takt time. Cells are run independently with their own supply and machines. If one cell goes down, the others can continue to operate.
An automobile manufacturer offers a total of 50 customized packages on a single model of vehicle. For example, they offer 22 packages in Japan and 5 packages in the United States that are completely different. Customization is handled by 4 cells at the end of the manufacturing process. Each cell handles a different aspect of customization such as paint, components, electronics and detailing. Depending on the order, a vehicle is processed by 0 to 4 of the cells. The customization process is faster than the main manufacturing process such that the cells don't become a bottleneck.
NotesCells allow a firm to take a complex process and track the performance at the small team level.Cells simplify management processes. For example, each cell may be expected to organize their own holiday schedules such that all shifts are covered.Cells can improve employee satisfaction as teams are given opportunities to learn diverse skills and take personal pride in the quality of their output and performance.
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