The Impact Of Social Distancing On Assembly Operations | John Shook | LEI


Testing temperature measurement setup

Problems and Countermeasures at GE Appliances and Herman Miller:

  • Problem 1Clarify what is the problem to solve 
  • Problem 2Ensure each member is coming to work healthy 
  • Problem 3Make assembly line work safe for social distancing 
  • Problem 4Maintain social distance for Team Leader Andon response 
  • Problem 5Apply social distancing to other, non-assembly line, work areas 
  • Problem 6: Resolve the many other safety concerns that are cropping up 
  • Cleaning surfaces 
  • Cleaning air – Ventilation 
  • PPE
  • …”


Michel Baudin‘s comments:  John Shook’s writings are usually more polished. This one feels like notes from conversations with managers from GE Appliances (GEA) and Herman-Miller (HM). It goes straight into the heart of the matter with no lead or introduction and with acronyms that are not defined but easy to decypher, like “TT” for Takt Time. This tone actually infuses the article with a sense of urgency. It reads like an unvarnished look at what is actually happening and it contains many informative photographs of the shop floors.

For each problem, GEA and HM give pointers on making assembly work safe from COVID-19 but I have a few questions the article does not address:

  1. How do you protect assembly workers from infection through the products? Social distancing protects them from each other’s breaths but an infected worker’s hand can contaminate a workpiece. The workpiece can then, in turn, infect the next worker’s hand. The article does not discuss means of disinfecting workpieces between stations.
  2. What does distancing do to assembly operations? For decades, we have been bringing workstations closer together, to make it easier for operators to help each other and run multiple stations when the volume is lower. Now, we have to go in the opposite direction.

#socialdistancing, #assembly, #leanmanufacturing, #covid19