Cell production (also called Cellular Manufacturing or Group Technology) has the production line split into a number of self contained units.
- Each team or 'cell' is responsible for a significant part of the finished article, rather than each person only carrying out one specific task.
- Team members are skilled at a number of roles, so it provides a means for job rotation.
Cell production is a form of team working and helps ensure workers are motivated and committed, as each cell is responsible for a complete unit of work, which Herzberg sees as part of job enrichment.
Cells would usually have responsibility for organising work rosters within the cell,.Normally the group will be given target production levels to hit, such as so many units per day. They will then have the responsibility for deciding how the product is produced and who will do each particular task.
- Cells deal with other cells as if they were customers, and take responsibility for quality in their area.
Benefits of Cell Production
- Closeness of cell members should improve communicationm avoiding confusion arising from misunderstood or non received messages.
- Workers become multi skilled and more adaptable to the future needs of a business.
- Greater worker motivation, arising from a variety of work, team working and more responsibility.
- Quality improvements as each cell has ownership for quality on its area. (Can make total quality management more effective)
Flexibility of the Cell
The cell production system is flexible. If requirements change, cells can be assigned at short notice to fulfil the order without affecting main-line production.
Cells at Bentley produce sub-assemblies to a buffer stock. For example, 50 bonnets may be in stock (the buffer stock) line-side (ready for use on the main flow line). As they are used up, a cell will receive an order to replace them. It is the job of the cells to keep these buffer stocks topped up and to deal with unforeseen circumstances such as the one described above.
- It is the line side buffer stock system that links cell production to flow production at Bentley.
- The company culture has to encourage trust and participation, or workers can feel that they are being constantly pushed for more and more output with no respite.
- The company may have to invest in new materials - eg. handling and ordering systems suitable for cell production.
- Cell production may not allow a firm to use its machinery as intensively as in traditional flow production.
- Some small production lines may not yield enough savings to make a switch to cell production economically worthwhile.
- The allocation of work to cells has to be efficient so that they have enough work, but not so much that they are unable to cope.
- Recruitment and training of staff must support this approach to production.