Lean Kaizen event Questions and Standard Work

Here is a good one experienced this week:

You have to reduce space by 50% for new business. The group decides to create some smaller workcells to achieve this. The current process has multiple batch process steps that feed an assembly work cell - a large accumulator in which subsequent hand assembly processes are performed with the assistance of some smaller mechanical equipment - ok?

The basic direction this group of workers received was that any mechanical batch processing equipment including conveyors, orienting bowls, etc. (in short, anything that costs overhead dollars) was to be eliminated and done by hand. An example of the current process is:

An injection molding machine shoots a part, the part is ejected and conveyed to a rotary bowl orienter, the part goes into an assembly robot, the part is assembled with others and a subassembly is then oriented into the accumulator. The robot is extremely unreliable.

The direction this group received was to eliminate everything except the injection molding machine, and do the rest by hand including moving material.

Assuming that the assembly robot cannot be fixed to work reliably, (hand assembly is currently faster and more reliable than the robot) shouldn't we do everything we can to eliminate movements, transfers, delays, errors in moving material for the operator using the other equipment that is reliable? If the equipment can do the work that is non-value added but required, isn't part of "respect for people" and "jidoka" to make the workers' job easier?

I would remove the assembly robot (which is slower and less reliable than doing it by hand) and build the hand assembly work cell where the parts are being currently oriented to. This would let the worker focus on building the parts and not moving the parts. It seems to me that standard work routines are going to be hard to create and adhere to if each employee must break into their routines to replenish material that the equipment could be doing for them.

Any thoughts?

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