Cell Layout by Committee

Cell Layout
One of my roles as sensei is to observe and critique. On Thursday I made close observation of a manufacturing cell layout workshop. The project leader had two teams of workers and support personnel set up with paper cutouts of the equipment, furniture, benches, racks and asked them to “rearrange the deck chairs”. The teams had previously developed a list of guidelines – clear line of sight, material flow, rooms and big equipment on the outside of the area, etc. Then the two layouts were critiqued by the “expert”, pro/cons listed, and a ‘consensus layout’ created. My problems with this approach are: a) Who says either of the two proposals or the consensus layouts are lean?! They certainly aren’t optimized, although the future cell residents did have design input into their new home; and hopefully have achieved some level of buy-in. b) The process the team used makes no attempt at flow affinity (frequency of neighbor interaction – the Muther Simplified Systematic Layout Planning method, or any other layout optimization tool). So we see amateurs deciding to put the break room and lockers closer to the cell exit and in between incoming inspection and CMM. The residence leave or enter the cell a few times a day, while parts move between inspection and CMM many many times a day. Go figure …




4 Replies to “Cell Layout by Committee”

  1. So, what did you do, as “sensei”? Just watch and let them do a bad layout?? So you could feel smug about it and blog about it? Or did you coach them in the direction of a better layout?

  2. I have a feeling the entire story isn’t here, just enough to get us talking. However, I do believe the best place to input into a process to ensure success is to coach or ‘sensei’ when teams are developing criteria, principles and constraints. It does help ensure a better direction from the start. It would be great to develop a series of questions based on your experiences that might have helped them….almost doing a classic ‘5 Why’ on the sensei process to determine the root cause of poor designs. Would like to be in on that!

  3. Mark, it’s early yet in the design process. The team got way out in front of themselves. So I poke and nudge – What about this or that? Since this is one of many cells to come what I’m helping with is sharing the process I’ve used successfully elsewhere. A cell isn’t just a bunch of collocated activities.  A design team without training or experience is bound to run into trouble.  How about establishing a few key principles:

    1. Minimize storage, distances, material handling, strain, clutter
    2. Maximize communication, visibility, smooth flow, flexibility
    3. Optimize the block layout around strategic priorities
  4. OK, that was the fuller part of the story that I was expecting or hoping to hear. I absolutely agree that a team without training or lean principles isn’t necessarily a good idea. Poking and nudging… that’s a good description of the process I use… making sure those principles that you talk about are followed, but giving the team leeway and ownership of the exact layout and work flow themselves.

Leave a Reply