10 Rules For Successful Lean Assembly Cell Design

After designing and building proven and successful assembly and lean manufacturing cells for 25 years, we have put together the commonsense rules that run through our cell designs. Whether you are building a few or a few hundred units per shift, they will provide benefit, and pay dividends.

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Worksmart’s 10 Points to Lean Assembly Cells

1. Keep it moving

To achieve maximum productivity with a balanced cell, product needs to flow one piece at a time with minimum effort. Keep production balanced with limited work in process space.

2. Keep it small

Strive to miniaturize the cell as much as possible. This minimizes floor space, WIP, transferring and handling of product and assists team work. Provide IPK when necessary.

3. Keep it logical and sequential

What is the proper sequence for assembly? Talk with your operators for input on the sequence and division of work. Don’t make it more difficult than necessary. What is the optimum cell layout? Straight line, “U” shaped, ‘L’ shaped, or oval. What equipment or sub assembly needs to be integrated?

4. Make it ergonomic

Don’t fight the process. Design the workstation to fit the task and operator, not the other way around. Use a modular design that makes it easy for the operator to work their position.

5. Economize on movement

Are the tools, supplies, components, and equipment within easy reach? The goal is to integrate fixturing, product rotation, and positioning into the process. Create universal fixturing for mixed model production. Minimize look and reach time.No hyper extensions.

6. Optimize parts presentation

Are all components at point of use? If there are large or bulkie, components are they easily handled? Would customize flow racks be of value? Are subassemblies being produced and presented at point of use?

7. Do it online, the same way always

Strive for standard work procedures and manufacturing uniformity. Provide method instructions. If possible, include test, QC, inspection, and pack out, online at each position to minimize rework, and WIP. Stop the line with reoccurring rework/quality problems.

8. Minimize Wasteful Handling and Exchanges

Seems simple but any handling that is not adding value is wasteful. Eliminate lifting and movement offline. As an example, a 25-pound product lifted unnecessarily 10 times for a 50-unit production per day is over six tons of wasted handling.

9. Keep it open and flexible

Keep sight lines across the cell open to improve communication between the team and also for fast, real-time visual management on the floor. Flexible cell design should be scaleable and encourage change and continuous improvement. Use andon lights and scoreboards for up to the minute, visual line status.

10. Keep it simple

There are many reasons to keep simple: low/no maintenance, ease to reconfigure, low first cost, economical operation. Don’t make it more complicated than you really need, there may not be a pay back.