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Lean workstations that makes work easier

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Workstation is a place where value adding activities are carried out. While a normal workstation focuses on the output, a Lean/ Kaizen Workstation focuses on Operators’ Comfort, Motion Economy, Ergonomics, Interchangeability, and Safety & Productivity.

Simply put, a workstation is the area that contains the work surfaces, fixtures, tools, and materials needed to perform a job.Workstation is the key element of any process & a part of Standard Work. Without a standardized workstation, MURA (inconsistency) & MURI (strain) cannot be arrested.

Workstations should always be customized. Generally, we use standard workstations those are bought off-the-shelf. Though they may be interchangeable, the problem with these workstations is that it does not necessarily meet the needs of the operator performing the process.

The ideal approach is to design each workstation to match the specific needs of the tasks that will be performed on the station. Common design materials include things slotted angles, plastic pipes, scrap material from maintenance crib etc.,. Using these modular systems an operator gets exactly the workspace they need.

When configuring a work area, the following need to be considered:

Minimize work surfaces. Let us remember one thing: “more the space, more the trash”. The workstation starts accumulating unnecessary items that requires more cleaning resulting in loss of time due to excess processing. When we have additional space, the paradigm will tend towards batching. Hence, limit the space; match the space to the need of the task.

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A slanted work-table is ideal; however, one needs to study this. We can have the material bins in slanted fashion if required.

Make workstations adjustable. Flexibility is the need. With different operators working in different shifts and each of them having different heights, the workstations are ought to be flexible. This will ensure fatigue-free processes. Adjustments can be done with Jack-systems, carter-pins, pneumatic or hydraulic jacks etc., Remember to keep it simple.

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Nothing is permanent. No fixed stations. Use Wheels You’ll be happy you did this every time you have Kaizen activity in the area.  

Use quick disconnects on all of your lines. Quick connectors for electrical line, pneumatic line, water line etc., will facilitate easy re-configuring. A versatile workstation is critical when we keep doing Kaizen with respect to layout re-organization.

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Front loading. Let us make it easy for the Mizusumashi to feed the material without disturbing the operator. While we ensure frontal loading, ensure the rejects/ Waste go out from the rear.

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Make it U-shaped. Don’t have people reaching for the back corners.

Jigs & Fixtures: Displays, Gages, Control charts etc., can be angled up towards the operator. Use of cut-outs in the work surface or jigs will facilitate easy handling. Build jigs in such a way that both hands are used concurrently.

Make a hole for trash. Reaching for a trashcan should not be an additional task-element. A hole in the table with a spout is ideal to remove waste from the Workstation.

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Make tools easy to grab and put away. Easy to grab and easy to return the tools will save time. Orientation of the tools should be done from this aspect.

Karakuri – Feed small parts through tubes using gravity. Configured properly, they can take up less space than standard bins.

Information flow:  Design a table considering how to maintain the flow of information – Kanban posts, SoPs, etc.,

Avoid chairs. Most people work better on their feet. This is especially true in U-shaped cells or when people do a lot of job rotation.

P.S. If your leaders and colleagues are also interested in this subject, do them a favor and share this link. They may thank you for your concern and initiative.

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Author: Kaizen Institute - India!

Kaizen Institute – India is part of the Global Kaizen Institute operations. Kaizen Institute was established by Sensei Masaaki Imai, the GURU of Kaizen. He wrote the 1st book 28 yrs ago and that is when it all started . We operate in 30+ countries today and have over 400+ coaches helping more then 600 organizations Learn, Apply, Sustain – Kaizen/ Operational Excellence. In India we have two physical offices – Pune & Ahmedabad and 27 coaches in all.

3 thoughts on “Lean workstations that makes work easier

  1. Very good information. we can add few more concept like mistake proofing and visual Management in designing workstations

  2. Very good suggestion! And don’t forget to go to the gemba to grasp the situation …http://www.leanlab.name/leanlabstories/leanlab-stories-ep0—en

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