Group Technology

One of the methods of solving the problem of conflict between productivity and flexibility in the computer-integrated flexible manufacturing system is group technology, which is a progressive management concept employed in an engineering industry within the framework of an integrated manufacturing system. The application of group technology in a purposeful manner can result in economic benefits of mass production even in large and medium batch production. In addition to streamlining production through the rationalization of components, it also helps to establish better co-ordination between the production wing and other functions like design, methods and sales engineering. The fact that more than 80% of the engineering industries of the world are engaged in medium and small batch production should give the concept of group technology a new significance.

Traditionally laid-out production lines based on functions such as turning, drilling and boring, lead to many production delays because of inherent limitations in production control. A group technology-based production system organizes the production facilities in self-contained and self-regulating groups, each of which undertakes complete manufacture of a family of components with similar configurations and manufacturing characteristics. The different cells of the group technology system virtually function as small factories within the main factory. This assures reduction in throughput time, work in progress, inventory, setting time, work handling, jigs and fixtures etc.

This concept improves design rationalization, job satisfaction and production control. CNC shops are at present major areas where group technology is employed. But with a shift from hard-wired Numerically Controlled (NC) to software-based controls like Computerized NC or CNC, much of the essence of Group Technology will trickle down to the software.

In Group Technology there is specialization in families of similar parts. Parts requiring a particular operation are assigned to different groups. These groups are the basis of group technology plant layout. A traditional process plant can be converted into group technology plant layout. Machines are arranged here in such a way that each individual machine is assigned to the production of one group of parts. Group Technology affects the components manufacture only.

A case in Group Technology — actual working:

Bajaj auto’s Cellular Manufacturing — a shop-floor is also a unit of cost management. A technique called Cell-level Cost Management (CCM) is used. Bajaj Auto uses CCM. It has 220 cells in its Pune plant and 250 at another plant in Maharashtra.

Each cell has one head called a section manager. He is responsible for monitoring day-to-day costs under his control e.g. utilities, power consumption, tools, maintenance, consumables etc. He has to draw up cost reduction targets based on company-wide data-base on these items of costs.