In product development, the ability to quickly and effectively adapt to changing technology and market requirements is becoming increasingly important. Often when we talk about how to become more efficient, we tend to focus mainly on the actual design and machining of products. Effective plant layout is a crucial step to guaranteeing the success of your business.
It is estimated that between 20–50% of the total operating expenses within manufacturing are attributed to material handling—be it materials or the products themselves—and more effective plant layout could reduce this by as much as 50% or more!
Plant layout is a technique of locating different machines and plant services within a factory to achieve the greatest possible output of high quality at the lowest possible total cost. The process in which you plan and position employees, materials, machines, equipment and other manufacturing support is known as plant layout design.
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Effective plant layout offers many benefits to manufacturers, the most obvious of which is of course the impact it has on a company’s bottom line. You can reduce costs while drastically increasing capacity using the same square footage and equipment you already have when you employ plant layout effectively. This helps spur the growth of your business. If you are concerned that your plant is too small to scale for growth, you may want to take a second look at how things are positioned on the shop floor.
The benefits of effective plant layout go beyond mere efficiency and time savings though. There are real benefits to workers as well. An effective plant layout leads to a safer workplace by reducing the number of accidents that occur. When things are laid out in a way that makes sense, with plenty of space left between machines so that workers can easily navigate the shop floor, the number of workplace accidents and injuries decreases. Not only does this keep workers safe and feeling supported, which in turn creates a happy and healthy work environment, it also reduces costs from claims and time lost while workers are out. Labor turnover is reduced, and the higher production capacity and profits that result from effective plant layout often lead to higher wages for workers as well.
Other benefits you see with an effective plant layout are as follows:
- Machines are easier to perform maintenance on or repair.
- Production delays are greatly reduced.
- Less changes are required to maintain the shop layout.
- The shop is easier to keep neat and clean.
- Production is kept under control.
- Waste is greatly reduced or even eliminated.
- Back tracking is reduced.
- Less capital is spent on machinery.
- Set up and total operation time of the shop is reduced.
- Production methods greatly improve.
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So now that you’re convinced a more effective plant layout is the key to improving not only processes but virtually every aspect of your business, you are probably curious as to how you can achieve this in your business. Plant layout is very complex in nature as it involves an understanding of concepts from a variety of disciplines including engineering, architecture, economics and business administration.
A properly designed plant layout encompasses all production and service facilities and provides for the most effective utilization of labor, material, and machines. In order to achieve these goals, there are some considerations you must make during the design of your plant layout. For example, you should ask yourself the following:
- Is this the most efficient use of labor?
- Does this eliminate bottlenecks? Downtime?
- Are we providing proficient communication between workers and supervisors?
- Is movement of products or materials static? It should not be.
- Is this flexible enough to accommodate future workflow changes?
The principal objective of a proper plant layout is to maximize production while minimizing costs. Whether you are designing a new plant layout from scratch or just simply modifying an existing one to accommodate changes, it’s important to keep this objective in mind. In order to fulfill this goal, you will have to make use of the maximum volume available.
All in all, a well-designed and optimized plant layout offers many benefits for not only the bottom line of a business, but also the health and safety (not to mention happiness) of workers. Solid Edge offers a great solution for plant layout design. You can also try it yourself with a free trial of Solid Edge.