Cellular Manufacturing: Organized Manufacturing in 2021

2021 is as great a time as any for science and engineering. About a week ago, we experienced one of the greatest feats in scientific and engineering history. This is the advent of the launching of a rocket from American soil. While the mission is bigger than we can ever anticipate, at every stage of the exercise you could sense the level of detail that went into designing the rocket, manufacturing the rocket, assembling the rocket and then ultimately launching it to space. For those of us here on Earth, making a rocket is an industrial  process that requires sequencing and focus.

Cellular manufacturing is a train of thought that enables production work stations to operate in a sequential manner. What this will enable is the flow of materials in a seamlessly, effortless flow. With minimal delays, this lean methodology will enable a paradigm shift in activity that will enable better resource management. The key advantage of cellular manufacturing is its ability to increase production velocity, while minimizing the capital requirements of a plant.

The sequential movement of parts through a system is one that we should excitedly experience in our 2021 operations. Products will be navigating through a system one piece at a time, in a flow that will match the desired takt time of an operation. The ability to ensure that customer needs are met is one that will be welcomed in all spheres. With shorter cycle times and changeover times, it will be possible to generate systems that are more flexible. In spheres where the modus operandi is one that is high volume, it will be the perfect transition to the more flexible smaller systems.

From a strategic perspective, it is important for an organization to ensure that they are nimble. With the current global condition the way that it is, it is very important for companies to be able to adjust their operating flow. In a time where reliance on one operational manufacturing strategy might not be enough, having a cellular manufacturing system might just be what you need. In a time where your continuous operations can be disrupted by the occurrence of situations like a pandemic, which will more than likely repeat itself about ten years from now, how will you manage a reduced flow?

A critical operating strategy that will enable you to navigate from an operating plane where you’re in a continuous mode, to one where you’re able to operate in a smaller just in time operation, cellular manufacturing will be the solution to that problem. More nimble operations work best in unstable operational times. The cyclical operation is what you’ll need for your operational needs.

How to Implement Cellular Manufacturing

As a technology that enables industrial organizations to transition from operations such as batch and queue and  mass production to more pull based operations, this is a system that you’ll want to have in your organization’s disaster recovery plan. Even if you don’t implement one right away, having one in your recovery plans will be well worth the investment of time and research. We live in a world where one mode of operation doesn’t seem to be the one that will be able to cut it anymore. You have to be ready for anything. Cellular systems don’t require as much capital cost in their implementation. Additionally, with a reliance more on pull, you won’t have to be worrying about your inventory allocation.

Step 1: Apply an A3 approach to your transition to Cellular Manufacturing.

You will need to do a thorough assessment of the current condition. How can you convert a work area into a manufacturing cell? How much will it cost? How much time will it take to occur? What is your current operational flow? What is your current cycle time, takt time and other critical operational parameters? With your pooled data, you can calculate your averages.

Step 2: Converting to a Process-based Layout.

Once you understand thoroughly how your process works, you can take the time to determine how it is that you’re going to facilitate the planning or implementation process to cellular manufacture. What will your machine configuration be? Will it be U or C based on the desired products that you can now make? What tools will you incorporate? SMED for easy machine configuration? Autonomation for the human-machine interaction?

Step 3: Continuously Improving the Process.

Once all of this is completed you will be able to identify what will work best for you and your organization.

In 2021, we cannot think in a linear fashion. We have to be able to put ourselves in a position where we are able to navigate between various operational modes in order to ensure that we stay nimble. Seeing the global economic changes today, will encourage the organization itself to actually utilize all the modern tools at hand in order to ensure that the adequate measures are being taken to keep the organization in business. It took years of optimization to take that rocket to space, your plant…is also an engineering marvel. Keep optimizing it.