Following are brief articles, on the subject of plant layout. They were written previously, are not related, and may have similar wording.

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1. Layout

Plant Layout, Facility Layout, Factory Design, Floor Plan

Layout, or the physical organization of people, materials and machines within a workplace, is at the very heart of productivity. Yes, layout requires fitting workstations into a building floor plan but that is the last step. First define the operating characteristics of your process, and a new layout will be much easier to plan, and more effective when implemented.
There is no universal template because one solution does not fit all
If you want a universal template or layout or formula, this article won’t help much. I’m sorry but there is no single quick fix, because equipment, process, flow, and building plans have such a major effect on layout and they vary widely. Variable factors in your facility will be unique, so your layout will be unique.

A successful layout must consider work done; flow and routing of output; equipment size, capability and capacity considering product mix; crew sizes and skills; inventory and cycle time goals; material handling and safety.

A new layout will require work and thought and later, cost to implement. Benefits can pay back the investment, and perhaps this article will offer insights into the return in your situation.

Benefits of a thoughtful layout 
By analyzing and improving workplace (and workspace) layout, it is possible to:
1. Position today’s output, personnel, process and equipment efficiently within the facility.
2. Organize and cut through the “spaghetti” flow that adds distance and confusion. Optimize product flow through the process, make it visible. Simplify and reduce product and personnel movement.
3. Place work stations and inventory to amplify their interactions.
4. Add output, capacity and utilization by relieving space constraints.
5. Reduce handling and damage to product.
6. Simplify organization of material from receiving through shipping.
7. Allow for future growth or consolidation.
If your organization makes improvements as we move out of the downturn, you can achieve immediate results, as well as form a base for continuing improvement.

If not a universal template, then what?
A new layout can be achieved quickly even if it is not a universal, off the shelf, template. As with any other project, experience and skill can produce rapid and effective results.  

A layout can be large or small in scope, tailored to your objectives, timetable and budget. Major layouts often are phased over time. Remember it may years before you perform the next re-layout; better get this one right.

Plan and implement a layout with your own resources, or those of an experienced consultant such as Jackson Productivity Research Inc., who develops layouts for clients to meet today’s operating criteria and schedules, relieve constraints, cut operating costs, simplify flow, add capacity or require less space, bring together different or new processes and equipment, allow for future growth.

Key factors to achieve successful layouts
1. The two primary reasons for creating a layout are to generate a better flow pattern for materials and / or people in an existing area; or to set up a new or different facility.
2. In either case, it is important first to define the requirements for use of the space, the contents, major access points, building limitations, regulations affecting the space including floor loads, rest rooms, fire codes and emergency routes. Then, plot several options as “block” layouts, discuss them with the stakeholders, and choose an efficient, safe, long lasting arrangement with good flow. Finally, detail the “block” layout down to the level necessary to install equipment, furnishings, utilities and connections.
3. The type of inventory system in use is also a major factor early in a manufacturing layout. Will material be supplied Just in Case, the traditional Materials Requirement Planning technique, or will the focus be on a lean process, or Just In Time delivery? Know what system you will use, in order to assign the correct amount of space to materials, in the appropriate places.
4. A successful layout first considers the variable factors that define your circumstances and objectives, then creates a productive flow, then fits that flow into the physical geometry of your equipment and facilities. A good flow pattern for materials and people should be a driving force for any layout. It may not be possible to quantify the benefits, but many productive practices follow from a careful layout; materials movement without retracing steps, visibility of inventory and of work, easy access of direct and support people, superior material handling, safety, housekeeping, emergency routes.
5. The classic method to gain room is to move into storage space, warehouses for instance. That often can be a practical option, especially if a concurrent objective is to reduce inventory.
6. A prerequisite to a layout is to define material handling into an area, considering material dimensions and weight, overhead lift, trucks, conveyors, etc. Also determine how utilities will be provided, because while overhead supply is much easier it also can block access to equipment and interfere with sight lines and vision.
7. A recent client believed that his current layout did not reflect management’s desire for employees to enjoy their working environment, and we created much less cluttered, more safe, conditions with a layout. He also wanted to be able to show off the highly capable modern equipment to his potential customers; that is possible today.

Layout implementation
Layouts tend to be fixed in place for a long time, because a new one can be expensive and cause disruption as it is installed. And too, a layout will probably be obsolescent soon after it is put in due to new equipment or product or a shift in volumes. There is no magic solution to this dilemma, unless your crystal ball is clearer than mine. If possible, try to create “pockets” of empty floor space in the layout, with nothing physically installed there. Then when a new requirement arises, you will have room to maneuver.

It is difficult to play a “checkers” game, to move sequentially from place to place, if there is no empty space on your checkerboard to start with. First, free up a chunk of space; discard obsolescent machinery, processes, material; the old standby put material offsite and move manufacturing into the warehouse; discontinue that unprofitable product. Then set up a sequence of events leading to a final arrangement.

Layout implementation cost and complexity varies; if utilities such as water and drains are under a concrete floor, a change will be long and expensive. Many modern buildings provide utility access from the ceilings, even drains, and changes can be accomplished much more readily and swiftly. If possible, place really permanent objects together to minimize the obstructions to later expansion or rearrangement.

A building addition
When a new area is to be laid out and built, be sure to address not only the immediate need but also the future as well as it can be anticipated, to keep the layout effective for some time. If the budget allows, build in extra space to provide options for future actions. Be sure to plan where a major expansion will be even if it is not built until later. Then in the layout do not block later access to the expansion route with permanent facilities such as docks, rest rooms, steam generators, water treatment equipment, chemical processes, waste treatment.

Plan the building layout before setting the final design for the facility if possible, because existing walls and access points restrict flow and placement of equipment.

Thanks for the time, I hope the article was useful. JPR welcomes the opportunity to discuss your particular application.

Jack Greene, Jackson Productivity Research Inc.

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