Lean Manufacturing Video - Two Benefits of U-shaped Work Cells

Below is a great video clearly showing two benefits of a U-shaped cell. More information about the benefits of U-shaped work cells can be found here.

Flexible Workcell:

The customer takt time in this video is low enough that the operator is able to manage multiple machines and still keep up with the demand. However, in a U-shaped work cell, multiple operators can be added to share the work. Should the customer adjust their demand, add a person and increase the output!

Without adding machinery or tools, the output of the work cell can be fluctuated based on the customer demand. Just remember to create a new standard work!

In-process WIP:

Now this isn't strictly a benefit, but more of a necessity. In order to get the most out of running multiple machines, the operator should never have to wait for a machine to cycle. Waiting for a machine is a waste of talent and shows lack of respect for the worker.

To prevent this, just add in-process WIP. A part is ready at all times in each station. After loading the machine with a component and starting it, the operator moves on to the next operation where a part waits, ready to be picked up. The machine always waits for the operator. 

Auto-eject mechanisms need to be used if possible, where the machine ejects the finished part, leaving the work area empty to accept the next part. In this case, the part is small enough that the operator removes it with one hand, while loading with the other.  

Now to the video.

Keep an eye out for the above two concepts. The operator works at a steady pace, with no strenuous activity such as lifting or reaching. Perhaps she wouldn't be able to keep this pace up for eight hours, but without looking at a longer time period, we don't know this. Walking could be reduced by moving some of the machines closer together, although it's difficult with some machinery.


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