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Dedicated Equipment

Dedicated pieces of equipment are machines and tools that are specified for specific tasks or workstations. The primary purpose of dedicating equipment to a specific process step is to accommodate flow. If a machine is shared, it may not be available when needed, causing items to wait in a queue.

While dedicated equipment is critical for one piece flow, it is often a hard sell because it requires duplicate equipment. This drive the conventional wisdom that says functional layouts are a more effective form of manufacturing because you need less equipment.

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It is true that dedicated machinery drives the duplication of equipment. Instead of having a machine that supports both product families A and B, each production line would have its own equipment. Similarly, in the office, instead of having a shared printer, every department, and possibly every desk, would have its own.

Dedicated equipment obviously has one major drawback: Expense. The initial purchase, the maintenance, the space, and the tooling all cost money. There is also an expense in training multiple people to run the same, sometimes complex, equipment.

Why do it? The biggest thing that duplicating equipment in dedicated roles does is improve flow. There is less disruption in planning out production, or in waiting for equipment. Because nobody else needs the machine, it can be placed into work cells that can be arranged for great productivity. There is never any waiting for equipment. In the case of portable equipment, it is never misplaced.

On the plus side, though, dedicated machinery does not have to be as versatile as shared machinery. That means it is likely less complex. Simplicity tends to reduce cost and improve uptime. In fact, right-sized machines can often be designed in-house. Sometimes, a handful of small, simple pieces of equipment can replace a massive monument for a fraction of the cost.

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  • An idle machine isn’t as bad as most people think, if added production won’t allow more product to be sold. That’s an important point. People often want to keep machines at a high utilization rate, but that only really matters when a machine is a bottleneck.
  • Make sure dedicated equipment is 5S’ed and has a location marked to make it obvious when something is missing. In areas where a tool is at a shared location (cleaning area, print center, etc.) make sure the tool itself is marked to discourage borrowing.

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