Cell production has the flow production line split into a number of self-contained units. Each team or ‘cell’ is responsible for a significant part of the finished article and, rather than each person only carrying out only one very 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 worker commitment, as each cell is responsible for a complete unit of work, which Herzberg would view as part of job enrichment.
Cells would usually have responsibility for organising work rosters within the cell, for covering holiday and sickness absences and for identifying recruitment and training needs.
Cells deal with other cells as if they were customers, and take responsibility for quality in their area.
Amongst the benefits claimed for cell production are:
- Closeness of cell members should improve communication, 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 variety of work, team working and more responsibility
- Quality improvements as each cell has ‘ownership’ for quality on its area
Some of the downsides of using cell production include:
- 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 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 scale production lines may not yield enough savings to make a switch 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
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