Nonin Medical Inc. (Plymouth, MN) manufactures precision devices for the medical, veterinary and consumer markets that measure physiological variables such as oxygen levels and pulse rates. Given this background, it should come as no surprise that the company "took the pulse" of its employees when it came time to purchase new workstations during the early stages of an ongoing transition to lean manufacturing.

As part of the process, operators had the opportunity to try out three different workstation brands, after which they filled out a questionnaire to detail the strengths and weaknesses of each option. Ultimately, employees and management chose the Arlink 8000 modular workstation, from Lista International Corp (Holliston, MA), because of the system's flexibility, both in terms of configuration adaptability and operator comfort.

Prior to installing the Arlink stations, Nonin Medical engineers had been frustrated by the fact that the company's workstations were difficult to reconfigure and hard on employees physically.

"Our old workstations did not allow for easy access of tools and parts. They featured nonadjustable shelving, and even the lighting was poor," says Nonin engineer Bill Hartman. "Also, we had people of different sizes and proportions operating the same rigidly configured workbenches. We knew we needed to move into a much more modular and flexible category of workstations."

Among the features Nonin Medical is using to improve its assembly processes are the Arlink 8000's "starter and adder" system, which enables a wide range of layout possibilities, including back-to-back options. The workstations' proprietary Definite Positioning System allows operators to relocate and adjust work surfaces, storage, shelving, lights, power beams and foot rests, without having to use any kind of special tools.

"To further meet our needs for flexibility, [which is] important when we change shifts or applications and want to reconfigure the flow lines, we took advantage of the Arlink 8000 mobility option," says Hartman. "Lista's smooth operating casters allow two people to rearrange the production floor in just minutes."

In its operations, Nonin Medical uses a range of accessories, including adjustable-height shelving and bin racks to keep items like soldering irons, adhesive dispensers, wipes and other application-specific supplies within easy reach. The company is also pleased with the Arlink 8000's improved lighting.

"Our assembly technicians are very comfortable with their recommendation, and just as comfortable with the workstations themselves," says Hartman. "We...are reaping great benefits from our successful foray into lean manufacturing. In fact, we are growing at such a pace that we plan to add multiple additional flow lines in the near future."

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