Lean Tools: Zoning & Cellular Layouts


A cellular layout should provide all of the equipment, tools, work instructions, and materials to accomplish a single task or group of related tasks. It does not matter if the cell shape is a T, I, L, U, or V. The best shape is the one that produces the most efficient production in a safe manner. If cells are U or V shaped, they should first be set up to flow counter-clockwise because most people are right-handed and this is therefore the most ergonomically-correct way to move parts or objects.

Arrange cells to minimize the stretching and reaching for parts, supplies, or tools and to accomplish tasks. Place the height of the work surface based on the type of work to be done and the weight of the materials to be moved. Observe and talk to the workers doing the task for several hours before determining final layout.

Zoning is a technique of identifying the boundaries of a particular work center. When Kanbans and 5S are added to a cellular layout, material flow into and out of the process area (zone) with ease. Everything has a marked home and there is no excess work-in-progress storage. See how the tools and techniques combine well?

When JIT is fully implemented, equipment and personnel will be optimized in new layouts. Techniques like frontal loading, retrieval and ergonomically correct work centers should be implemented. Be sure, as examples, to place supply and removal paths at least 1 meter away from the backs of workers and make the paths at least 2 meters wide to reduce possible accidents. Some organizations establish “parts supermarkets” to locate materials near where they will be needed and operators “pull” materials into their work center, versus having work “pushed” to them.

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