Work Design Strategies for Rapidly Adapting the Work Space

Our workplaces have changed at an unimaginable speed. Companies must rapidly adjust and innovate to continue to excel in this new workplace.   Our new normal requires that we maintain safe distances for the foreseeable future.  This new reality has created a new capacity constraint out of simply not having enough space.  Restaurants, grocery stores, airplanes are all challenged to get the same capacity with everyone needing more space to safely produce and operate.

Manufactures will be charged with the same challenge. How do we produce the same throughput while giving people more space to stay safely apart?   Companies are going to need to employ new strategies for how they design work.   This ability to rapidly adapt the work space will define those who can survive the new normal and those who will struggle.

New strategies for how we design work

Work design is study of how work is done, not just by an individual operator or machine, but within the entire flow path or value stream.  How do products or services get produced from raw material to finished good.  The question now has become how will we produce products and deliver services while keeping operators and customers at a safe distance.


One strategy’s design work begins with an analysis of the cycle time of the work.  A cycle is a circle and ends where it begins.  For a plastic injection machine it may be when the first good part is dropped from the mold to the next time a good part is dropped from the mold. The cycle may take 15 seconds.

The work continues with an analysis of the operators work content.  Maybe they remove the part, shave off the flash, and pack the part in a box.  Then periodically they seal the box and send it down a conveyor.

Finally, an analysis is done of the comparison between the cycle time of the machine and the work content.  It may turn out the operator only has 5 seconds of work content compared to the cycle time of the machine.  This would suggest the operator has 10 seconds of available time to work on another machine.

Work design would look at the opportunities to design the path of the operator or the flow of the material to allow that one operators to pack from two machines.  That work is a work design strategies.

Manufacturing cell design is another strategy that focuses on the design of the work.

Help your organization learn how to design work to create capacity out of the new limitations on space.

Brian Mansure

Brian Mansure

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