Impact of Worker and Shop Flexibility on Assembly Cells
Flexibility can counter the negative effects of the loss of pooling synergy in cellular systems. In this study we define flexibility as the ability of assembly cells to reallocate resources to accommodate changes in family assignments (i.e. shop flexibility) and the ability of workers to move between cells (i.e. worker flexibility). We investigate the impact of shop and worker flexibility on different assembly cells faced with product mix variability over a wide range of experimental conditions. Three types of cellular shops are considered: strict cell shops (where each cell is dedicated to producing only one product family), flexible cell shops (where each cell can produce multiple product families), and hybrid cell shops (where some of the cells are strict and the rest are flexible). Results indicate that there is no cell shop that outperforms others, under all experimental environments. However, flexible cell shops showed significant advantages when the setup times were low, while hybrid cell shops provided an excellent alternative when setup times and the product mix unbalance were at ‘moderate to high’ levels. The strict cell shops demonstrated excellent performance when setup times were high, and the product mix unbalance was ‘minor’. Finally, the results suggest that in most cases, the implementation of only worker flexibility resulted in the majority of improvements with respect to the average percentage of jobs tardy.