8 Ways Custom Workstations Support Lean Initiatives

Previously just a thoughtless assortment of tables on the plant floor, workstations are now taking on a strategic role in industrial facilities as more studies find that well-designed, purpose-driven workstations can increase efficiency and support lean initiatives that aim to curtail waste in inventory, motion and labor hours. As a matter of fact, research has found that customized workstations can yield a 50% increase in productivity, a 50% reduction in wasted motion, a 60% reduction in utilized space and an astounding 70% reduction in safety hazards.

How Custom Workstations Improve Efficiency and Reduce Waste

When a workstation is purchased without thought to the purpose it will serve, there is a high likelihood that it will not suit the needs of the task being performed. This means there will be unnecessary motions, excessive reaches, uncomfortable configurations for users, potential safety hazards, missing or misplaced tools and materials and plenty of inefficiencies, injuries and wasted time.

On the flip side, lean, well-organized, customized workstations create a space that is optimized for the operation being performed, take up less floor space and put required materials and tools exactly where operators need them, which reduces time spent moving around the area searching for resources, increases workable space in the facility and eliminates unnecessary bending, twisting and lifting motions, all of which can help increase efficiency and productivity, while also reducing repetitive motion injuries and waste. Overall, there are eight notable advantages to customized workstations that support lean manufacturing and increased efficiency, including:

  1. Enhanced Safety: A well-designed, customized workstation reduces the chances of musculoskeletal injuries as employees will no longer have to reach, bend or twist to perform their duties because the materials are laid out according to the way work is performed. Often, customized workstations can be adjusted to the height of the individual, as well, making customized workstations a safer, more ergonomic choice.
  2. Increased Productivity: Placing materials at the employee’s fingertips via customization means that there will be less time spent searching and reaching for tools and resources. This will boost productivity and efficiency.
  3. Waste Reduction: The core principle of lean manufacturing initiatives includes reducing waste – this pertains to materials, floor space and motion. An effective workstation is customized so that it is flexible, designed to optimize floor space, support clear lines of sight, provide appropriate storage and promote organization – all of which eliminate wasted time and resources, supporting lean manufacturing and increasing efficiency and throughput.
  4. Improved Workflow: With customized workstations that reduce the amount of wasted space and are organized for the task at hand, the workflow of operators will be enhanced, boosting productivity by eliminating bottlenecks, unnecessary motions and labor hours lost to searching for materials.
  5. Better Use of Floorspace: A customized workstation considers the layout of the entire work area and the tasks performed there. Pre-planned and well-designed workstations can save space on the factory floor by using vertical areas, shelves, tool mounts, safety equipment and user-interface devices where they are most suitable. Also, by using strong, durable materials such as T-slot aluminum systems, you can optimize the footprint of the workstation and reduce the number of interfering columns.
  6. Improved Organization: A customized workstation can be arranged to account for all of the steps needed throughout each phase of the operator’s process so that the distance between parts, fixtures and disposal points are reduced. The ability of customized workstations to increase organization equates to higher levels of efficiency and productivity.
  7. Appropriate, Designated Storage: Customized workstations assure the proper materials are easy-to-locate and easy-to-reach through the use of bins and containers that are placed as close as possible to the point of use, which decreases travel time between tasks and encourages longer replenishment intervals. To further enhance efficiency, storage containers can be designated for proper usage through color-coding systems for quick visual reference.
  8. Reduced Set Up Time: During shift changes, it’s not uncommon to lose time making necessary adjustments to tools, equipment and accessories. Having a flexible and organized workstation that can be adjusted without specialized tools or the assistance of other employees reduces this time, increasing the efficiency and productivity of each shift.

Selecting a Customized Workstation Solution

While there are many workstations available to suit a variety of needs, customized workstations from 80/20 solutions have what it takes to provide the most advantages. The aluminum T-slot profiles and accompanying fasteners, accessories and parts allow users to configure durable workstations to fit the specific workflow of the facility and contain all the materials and resources that will be needed in an organized manner. Further, they can be easily and quickly reconfigured as changes are implemented because assembly is straightforward and only requires simple hand tools. The aluminum construction is strong, yet lightweight, and is comparable in strength to steel, making it suitable for light- to heavy-duty applications.

Stations can be designed so that they may be adjusted for layout, as well as height to accommodate each user, and length to suit the area. Storage bins may be mounted and paneling can be incorporated to organize tools. It is also possible to create a pressure manifold in the T-slot channel so a single hose can pressurize an entire frame, allowing users to add equipment where it is most convenient for the workflow and reach of the employee. Because the workstations are inherently modular and flexible, a solution can be designed to accommodate any workflow or area. There is also an option to add mobility to a workstation so that it can be moved throughout the facility when and where it is needed.

To find out more about how to design a custom workstation from 80/20 solutions that will help increase efficiency and productivity and support lean initiatives by reducing wasted motion, space and time, please contact JHFOSTER today.