Effective Layout Reduces Costs and Increases Productivity

One of the most complex issues for organizations is designing the configurations of their production systems. In these activities, planning and decision-making are broader in scope, involving:

  • corporate policy
  • choice of product lines
  • sales and production estimates
  • technology acquisition
  • factors related to management and organizational structure
  • human resources
  • environmental factors
  • selection of manufacturing, assembly and production processes
  • location of new units

Consequently, it involves long-term horizons and high degrees of risk and uncertainty.

The importance of this area of ​​study is increasing, due to the need to increase organizations’ competitiveness, as the understanding and development of factory design and layout, in an effective and competitive system, are fundamental to long-term success. They render production strategy concrete and are the foundation on which production takes place. The investment in new productive areas encourages the search for new layout possibilities, which can be considered the physical, visible manifestations of production system design.

The importance of studying layout has two aspects: economic and scientific. In the former, an effective layout in manufacturing can achieve considerable reductions in cost and increased productivity. Physical arrangement, whether in manufacturing or service, is the output of an analysis of layout proposals, after decisions related to products, processes and production resources have been taken. When a layout project is analyzed, the issue of comprehensive planning for the production of a new set of goods or services arises. Such issues will increasingly involve the analysis of existing processes and change in the placement of machines and equipment.

A typical physical arrangement project involves consideration of a large series of interrelated activities among sectors. Indeed, a layout is the master plan that integrates and physically coordinates the five factors of industrial management: man, material, money, machines and market. Accordingly, the physical arrangement of a production system is one of the main outputs of Production Engineering. In sum, in a layout project the relative positioning between production unit areas is determined in detail. Further, the specific positions of each machine, equipment, supplies and support services are established. Included are:

  • A study of the flow of manufacturing processes and product assembly
  • A determination of space needs for production, stocks, auxiliary activities and services
  • A departmental layout design
  • A detailed layout design
  • An evaluation and optimization of the layout

In already-operating organizations in which a significant percentage of the constructed productive areas are modified annually, the redesign of the layout (“re-layout”) needs to be incorporated into decision-making processes, in order for the organization to be effective and competitive in their area of ​​performance. This is mainly due to the evolution of the technology producing new machines and equipment, thus obsoleting established models and methods. The following are the main factors that give rise to a need for re-layout:

  • New production philosophies (e.g., Lean production)
  • Introduction of new products
  • Change in service flow
  • Change in production process
  • Obsolescence of facilities
  • Reduction in production costs
  • Variation in demand
  • Increasingly stringent safety and health standards
  • Inclusion of people with special needs
  • Inadequate working environment and/or unsafe conditions

Clovis Neumann – clovisneumann@unb.br

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