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The cellular manufacturing system, often called lean manufacturing, is a fairly recent development in global manufacturing processes. One of the first, and today, the most common cellular, or lean manufacturing systems is the Kaizen system. Originally conceived by the Toyota Corporation in Japan, Kaizen utilizes technology and cellular manufacturing to reduce the waste of time, effort, money, and resources in the production process.
A cellular manufacturing layout is in direct contradiction to the traditional production line. In the production line, numerous workers are needed to service a single production line running from receiving of raw material to shipping of finished product. A breakdown in staffing or machinery in any part of the line nearly always resulted in the entire process being idled until the specific difficulty in the line was repaired, or re-crewed. With cellular manufacturing, production is divided among groups, or cells, of workers and production machinery. Thus, the breakdown of one cell, due to equipment malfunction or staffing problems, does not radically affect the rest of the production process.
Though very technical and detailed, the concept of cellular production is basically simple; get a finished product from raw materials to shipment as efficiently, and as profitably as possible. Cellular manufacturing systems and layouts essentially separate the production line into segments, or cells, sometimes called modules. Each cell, consisting of both workers and production machinery, is dedicated to a particular component of the manufactured product. Ideally, workers and equipment comprising a particular cell are trained and configured to be able to take over the processes of another cell when necessary, thus minimizing downtime and wastage of raw material.
Obviously, a significant investment in time and money is necessary to implement a lean, or cellular, system of manufacturing, especially in an established production facility. The process of modulating the production process usually involves both re-training workers and re-tooling equipment. This process becomes much less expensive and time-consuming when implemented as part of a start-up manufacturing enterprise. In established facilities, the process of implementation usually takes several months, while new facilities will incorporate cellular manufacturing procedures into the construction and employee training process.
Technology and cellular manufacturing have combined to streamline the production processes of numerous established and start-up manufacturing facilities worldwide. Lean systems, such as Kaizen, and Six Sigma, to name just two, though very often high in startup cost, provide both a short- and long-term benefit in reducing the waste common to the traditional production line. The bottom line in any manufacturing enterprise is profit. Cellular manufacturing has been proven to dramatically increase profits.