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Teaching Manufacturing with Group Cell Practices

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Manufacturing Materials and Processes

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1166.1 - 24.1166.12

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Paper Authors

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Wayne P. Hung Texas A&M University

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Adam Farmer Texas A&M University

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TEACHING MANUFACTURING WITH GROUP CELL PRACTICESABSTRACTIn traditional manufacturing lab exercises, students would learn to operate one type of machinetool at a time. After learning a machine type, they then move to another type and learn alloperations on new machine tool. There is little connection and interaction among students sinceeach person will produce his/her own individual part. At the end of training lessons, someinstructors may verbally describe the link of different processes and how a product would flowamong those processes. A manufacturing department typically has to purchase many identicalmachine tools and different tooling sets for variety of possible operations on each machine type.The operating cost of such manufacturing laboratory is high and some students might notcomprehend the link among different processes. This model is popular among communitycolleges or vocational schools, but may not be best for engineering students since the latter onlyneed to understand the manufacturing processes and flow sequence rather than acquiring hands-on manufacturing skills.We propose a new manufacturing teaching practice at our university by introducing group cellsand simulated production lines. Teaching manufacturing through mini production line and groupcell would (i) simulate industrial practice, (ii) provide opportunity for students to interact and beresponsible, and (iii) reduce floor space and expenses when having less number of identicalmachines and tooling. A group of students is responsible to produce products for the whole group. Afterlearning and practicing basic machine tool operations in a cell (lathe, mill, drill, sawing machine,and specific manual operations), each subgroup of two students operate a machine tool andproduce identical components for the whole group. Students will have option to rotate to othermachines or stay with a specific machine to gain more experience. Some students keep timerecord of selected operations for time study, while others monitoring critical dimensions toassure of part quality and providing timely feedback to machining groups. When all componentsare produced to drawing dimensions and tolerances, students then assemble components to formthe final products that are carefully designed for process integration while having meaningfulvalue and ecstatic appearance for students to keep. At the concluding session, a teaching assistantleads the discussion and highlight the capabilities of each machine, flow of parts from onemachine to the next, identify the bottle neck station and let students suggest corrective actions.Component dimensions and part shape are modified for different groups to illustrate how afamily of parts is produced in group cells and the advantages of flexible manufacturing concept.The Group Cell laboratory practice was implemented in the Spring semester of 2013 and keepingthe same laboratory exercise, student group size and number of instructors. We reduce thenumber of machine tools from 15 to 8 while adding two new surface and cylindrical grinders,and shrinking the required floor space from 1420 ft2 to 600 ft2. Positive feedback from IndustrialAdvisory Board and more than 500 students verified the success of laboratory Group Cellapproach both educationally and economically.

Hung, W. P., & Farmer, A. (2014, June), Teaching Manufacturing with Group Cell Practices Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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