Building a work cell can be confusing and difficult for someone with limited experience. Lets first define a work cell.  It can be a manufacturing cell, a service cell or a retail cell.  Most of what is described in academia is the manufacturing cell.  The rational is that most of academia knows how to invoke the theories of lean manufacturing and the standardization of work.  For the purpose of this article, I will describe some of the well know attributes and theories and how they apply to the service arena.  Lets take an example in the restaurant business.  The work cell can be defined as the person that greets the customer, the taking of an order, and the production of food and the closing of the event.

The hostess commonly looks at a map where table are circled and they determined what is open for seating. They may casually look at server’s load but very little efforts are placed in efficient deployments.  Events that will improve efficiency are the size of the groups seating, the time that the previous party was seated, and finally an estimate on the time term of each seating.  Let me explain the subjective rating in more detail.  If the restaurant is a group of football fans declared by their jerseys, one could assume that in a sports bar or restaurant the term of the seating will be lengthier.  This is opposition to those with a very young child that will probably get restless with too long of a stay.

You can observe how the proper placement of people can result in efficiency. The object of a restaurant process is to turn tables, balance server workload and provide good service.  Assure that a server has a balance of long stay, regular stay and short stay tables.  No one should be sat within the server’s realm within a less than fifteen minute time period.  A server should have a balance of small, medium and large parties. A simple coding of patrons seating with colored markers an erasable sheet will suffice.  The coding does not need to be exact but proper seating will allow maximum seating efficiency.  A simple program can be written for a facility having the logic automated.  This software would ask three questions and place the customers at the tables they will receive the best service.

The taking of the order should be simplified. Most menus are standard and there always can be a preprinted menu list where a server can check off an item and options.  Table orders should always be taken in a specific order, clockwise or counterclockwise, and should always start from a specific point, such as left seat nearest server first.  This allows zero error for interpretation of the order and allows anyone to deliver the food.  In a perfect work every server would have an electronic pad to directly input the order to the kitchen.  However, the cost of implanting this could be more than a facility could afford.

The processing of food should be standardized in some manner so that appetizers do not show up at the same time as the meal or after the meal. In addition, an order should be completed at the same time for a table so that all customers receive product simultaneously.  Order processing can be divided into class of food, processing time, food segmentation etc.  The primary goal is to assure that there is standard work that assures food is delivered for an order at the same time without judgmental interventions. Standard work can be created in some fashion by the preparers of the food and the serving staff.  One of the key initiatives for this effort is the regrouping of the team on a regular timeframe to assure that all staff can contribute to any standard work changes.  Visual systems can be employed to assure that the standard work is consistent and handoffs can occur without continuous verbal communications.

Finally, a series will determine how the food gets delivered to the customer. The delivery should be able to be completed by anyone in the staff as the orders were consistent and systemic to a seating chart.  There are many other details that need to be defined and explained, but the purpose of this paper was to describe how value stream analysis, work cell and flow analysis, and standard work definition can be completed for any industry to improve its efficiency.  Always believe in continuous improvement and hold regular reviews where operators of the cell may give their inputs and receive improved operational methodologies.