Cellular Versus Process Layouts: An Analytic Investigation of the Impact of Learning and Productivity Improvement

V. R. Kannan
S. W. Palocsay


Evidence from the literature on cellular manufacturing suggests that shops configured as manufacturing cells perform poorly compared to job shops. However, cellular shops, being conducive to the use of teams in the assignment of production activities, have the potential to yield higher productivity than a job shop. Productivity differentials, and in particular, differences in the rates at which processing times can be reduced, have been largely overlooked in prior comparisons of cellular and job shops. This paper uses queuing theory to illustrate the relationship between processing time learning rates and flow time performance in cellular and job shops. Models are developed that make it possible to estimate the learning rate required in a cellular shop in order for it to yield performance comparable to that of a job shop. Simulation is used to validate the models under dynamic conditions as opposed to the steady state conditions assumed by queuing theory. Results indicate that a cellular shop need only achieve a marginally higher learning rate than a job shop in order to perform at a comparable level.