An exploration of methods to improve process flow in a remanufacturing cell
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Dublin Business School
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This paper examines flow creation within the remanufacturing cell of an Irish medical device manufacturer. The site in question has embarked on a lean journey that commenced in 2003 and has spread site-wide since then. However, despite this progress, achieving balanced work-flow within the remanufacturing cell remains a challenge. The objective of this study is to examine the state of flow within the facility and by understanding this, provide a roadmap for improving flow in the remanufacturing cell. This case study utilises a mixed method approach that includes qualitative interviews, participant observation and evaluation of company documentation and data. Upon initial observation, work-flow within the remanufacturing cell is highly variable mainly driven by the uneven rate of failure of parts returned to the cell; and a lack of visibility as to the rate of demand from production. Following the adoption of practices such as visual management, A3 problem-solving, standard work, kanbans and kitting systems the amount of rework demanded by production cells has reduced by as much as 80% in some cases. Further improvements were identified in the ability of the remanufacturing cell to effectively service demand. If further gains are to be made then the plant planning system must afford better visibility to the remanufacturing cell. Upon deeper exploration, although the remanufacturing cell presents contextual challenges to balancing flow, an adaption of flow practices can add significant value in designing a robust system of flow within the cell that deeply interacts with the operations of the broader facility as a whole.