Improving the process of designing cellular manufacturing systems
Cellular manufacturing is an important approach to the organisation of production. Large benefits are claimed over traditional functional organisation, and it is compatible with prominent manufacturing theories, such as just-in-time, total quality management, and computer integrated manufacturing. Several very successful applications of cellular manufacturing have been reported, but a wide range of performance improvements has also been observed. Many benefits ofcellular manufacturing do not arise directly from changing the organisation and layout ofdirect production resources, but from changes to the way the production process is operated, managed and controlled, that are made possible by the cellular organisation. Underachievement occurs when companies do not identify and exploit such opportunities. This research aims to address the problem by providing a system wide concept of cellular manufacturing and an improved process to support the design of a cellular manufacturing system based on this concept. A review of the theory and practice of cellular manufacturing is presented. A model is proposed, which comprises a general set of mutually compatible, production system wide, production system features for supporting or exploiting self-contained groupings of manufacturing resources. A subset of the features from the general model will be appropriate to a particular application of cellular manufacturing. Current processes for designing cellular manufacturing systems do not adequately support the application of such a concept. In particular, tailoring the general concept ofcellular manufacturing to a specific situation is identified to be an important but widely neglected design activity. A process is defined that makes concept design explicit, and a matrix-based tool developed to relate the features of cellular manufacturing to a company's performance improvement objectives. The value ofthis novel approach to designing cellular manufacturing systems is determined to be in facilitating the generation and communication of insight into the nature ofcellular manufacturing, encouraging a comprehensive appraisal of the concept and its impact throughout the production system, and focusing limited resources where they will be most effective.