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Work cells are strategically arranged groups of resources that are assembled to accomplish a specific purpose within the operation of a business. The idea behind a work cell is usually to structure the use of these resources in a manner that reduces lag time between essential steps, enhances the efficiency of each individual step, and eliminates as much waste of raw materials as possible. A work cell relies heavily on the employment of logical progression in order to create and maintain this type of process.
One of the easiest ways to understand how a work cell functions is to consider the arrangement of machinery on a manufacturing floor. Ideally, the machinery is positioned so that the goods in process move neatly and seamlessly from one machine to the next, ultimately completing the production process as a finished product. This normally means that the floor is arranged so that raw materials are transported from storage to the first machine in the sequence without having to pass by other machines, thus saving time and effort that helps to enhance production efficiency.
The same logical arrangement is applied to the remainder of the process. With the right work cell structure, the raw materials pass through the first phase of refinement and move directly into the next set of machinery used in the process, without the need to transport the materials past other machinery that will come into use later. Ideally, the machinery is located close enough that manual transport takes seconds rather than minutes. Even if some type of mechanical conveyance is used to move the goods from one machine to the next, this should occur with a minimum of delay.
Along with the arrangement of the machinery, a viable work cell also involves refining the movements that workers must use to operate the machinery at peak efficiency. This means arranging for controls to be within easy reach, and developing a simple but effective sequence of movements to handle materials in as little time as possible. As with positioning the machines in the most logical pattern, the most logical range of motion should be developed for each employee involved in the manufacturing process.
The general idea of a work cell can also be used to design the most effective layout for an administrative office. Little details such as how the work stations are arranged, and where commonly shared equipment such as copy and fax machines are positioned are considered with care. Even something like the ease of connecting with coworkers to handle a task in a time efficient manner is essential of the productivity of the office is to be maintained at optimum levels.
It is important to note that an effective work cell does not create additional hardship for workers. Instead, the effect is to allow each worker to accomplish more while expending less in the way of physical effort. As a result, the worker is able to be more productive but without experiencing the rapid exhaustion of energy as the day progresses. Thus, a properly executed work cell not only benefits the business, but also provides the employee with a more pleasant work experience, something that only serves to increase customer loyalty and the stability of the workforce.