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Facility layout as a logistic tool

Facility layout deals with arranging things within a facility. The things being place can be workshops in plants, machines, workstations, sections, offices… the facility in which these things are placed can be production plans, assembly lines, offices, workshops, etc.

Simply enumerating all possible combinations of locations is not an easy task due to the geometric aspects and the huge number of possibilities. Nonetheless, layout decisions are key to the success of many business.

Take McDonald’s, for example. Throughout the decades, McDonald’s has passed through major innovations. In the 50s, they introduced indoor seating. In the 70s, drive-through windows. In the 80s, they added playing areas; their kitchens were redesigned in the 90s. In 2004, new self-service kiosks were put in place. And now, we see three separate dining sections in their restaurants. What all of these have in common? They are all layout innovations!

Objectives for facility layouts

A good layout must minimize production, handling and storage costs. The metrics used can

– maximize the use of space
– minimize the distance travelled (both by the workers and by materials)
– reduce manufacturing lead time
– increase flexibility to produce different products and different volumes
– increase worker satisfaction
– facilitate monitoring and control of operations

Layout evaluation criteria

New layouts must be compared to previous ones and different evaluation criteria can be used in a simulation context:

– reduce production costs
– reduce risks of injury
– reduce risks of product deterioration
– increase production capacity
– reduce delivery lead times
– improve work environment

Layout changes

A layout is a long-term strategic decision. This means a layout is not supposed to be changed often. However, sometimes it is necessary to change the layout:

– to adapt the facility following changes in products or production processes
– to eliminate bottlenecks that were created after a change
– to introduce new methods, such as just-in-time or kanban
– increase production capacity

Many techniques exist to help determine the best layouts and to design facility layouts based on some fixed and predetermined types. But these are a topic for another post! Keep tuned!

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