Workstations are exactly what they sound like. They are the locations where work is completed. In a non-Lean environment, workstations tend to be assigned to individuals, lack standardization, and often are very general in design. For example, a company may have a standard 6 foot long workbench with a shelf above it that is used in a variety of work areas.
Workstations in a Lean company vary significantly from those that are not focused on flow.
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In a Lean company, two things happen. The first is that workstation ownership by individuals diminishes, and they become team responsibilities. This is the result of a higher level of job rotation, cross training, and flexing production teams as demand varies. This, in turn, requires a higher degree of standardization.
The second big shift is that workstations become designed to suit the process rather than the process being installed onto an existing work platform. You will see a higher number of small, dedicated work areas. A 6 foot long bench may be replaces with three smaller custom work stations on wheels that can be easily moved around. These workstations are often designed from scratch using products like Creform or B-Line.
Of note, far less space is required on Lean workstations than those in other companies simply because there is less work-in-process to store. It is common to see a workspace with no flat surfaces, and only a small fixture in the center of the bench to hold a product.
Workstations in Lean offices typically exhibit more standardization in terms of 5S than non-Lean organization, and there may be a shift to open workspaces or lower cubicle walls, but swapping desks is still uncommon. People will flex to help other areas, but it is generally done from their own work area. Computer systems, however, mimic much of the standardization that custom designed shop floor workstations provide.