The four types of production facility layout

One of the most critical steps in production planning is to decide the layout of the production facility.

Layout of the production facility means how the company is going to arrange the equipment, machinery and people for a highly efficient production process.

The goal of deciding the layout is to determine the most efficient and effective layout for the particular production process.

The same layout cannot suit all types of production and opting for the right one helps maximize efficiency, save time and other resources and produce effectively.

It also depends on the type of production process as sometimes a U-Shaped production line might be more effective compared to a straight production line when the manufacturer needs to move workers and material fast from one area to another.

While service organizations also consider facility layout, their main focus is its effect on consumer behavior apart from workflow.

There are four leading types of facility layouts including process, product, cellular and fixed position layout.

Four types of facility layouts:

Process layout:

The focus of the process layout is the production process or it arranges the workflow according to the process. In this layout, workers or departments performing similar tasks are grouped together.

Unfinished goods move from one workstation to another.

At each position, there is a group of workers carrying out a specific type of task.

For example, there are workers assembling parts at one workstation and at another inspection is being carried out.

As in the case of stuffed bears, the fur is cut out at one workstation, and the stuffing and stitching is carried out at another. At the next workstation, it is dressed and outfitted and then finally it reaches the shipping station before being delivered to the customer.

Such layouts work best in the case of firms producing small numbers of a wide range of products using general purpose machines that be swiftly changed to new operations for different product designs.

Manufacturers of custom machinery for specialized applications would use the process layout.

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Product layout:

In the product or assembly line layout people, equipment, or departments are arranged along an assembly line for production of high volume goods.

Assembly line means a series of workstations at which already made parts are assembled.

Such layouts are used for products requiring a continuous or repetitive production process.

When the manufacturing firm needs to produce large volumes of a product on an ongoing basis, it arranges workstations or departments in a line and the product moves along the assembly line.

For example, candy makers have workstations arranged along assembly lines.

Mixing and whipping of ingredients is carried out at one workstation and then sugar is added at the next. Candy moves on conveyor belts to reach the next workstation for packaging and then wrapped for shipment at another workstation.

Apart from it, automobile manufacturers also use assembly lines like in the image below robots are engaged in the assembly of BMW cars at one of its plants in Germany.

types of facility layout

BMW has been manufacturing vehicles and engines at its Munich plant since 1922. Around 7800 employees work at the Munich plant on producing  vehicles and the entire production process is performed on site. It includes everything from the press shop to the body shop, paint shop, seat production facility and assembly line.

Cellular layout:

The previous two layouts arrange the workflow by function.

However, this is not always the most efficient and effective method since sometimes inventory may build up and workers might grow bored of doing repetitive tasks and time may also be wasted transporting goods from one workstation to another.

Some of these problems are overcome using the cellular layout.

In the cellular layout different functions or departments are not carrying out different tasks.

Instead, there are small teams that handle all aspects of building a product or component.

For example, one team will be working on producing one appliance and another team will be working on the same appliance and each team will have the workers with necessary skills to carry out all aspects of production.

In such a scenario, each team works as a self-contained unit.

Sometimes machines and equipment are configured in a U shape and people work inside the U.

To gain the highest work efficiency, the companies having adopted a cellular layout train workers to perform several different tasks and they are parts of the teams that are responsible for monitoring their own quality and quantity.

Some of the key advantages of using a cellular layout is improved completion time, reduced inventory levels, superior quality and higher employee morale.

Large companies in the aerospace industry like Boeing and Raytheon usually adopt a cellular layout.

Apart from it, small companies making components for robots also use a cellular layout.

Fixed position layout:

While it is easier to move around toys and candies what about the products that cannot be moved about easily or on conveyor belts? For example, what about planes and ships?

Such production firms adopt a fixed position layout where the product remains in one place and the worker and equipment are moved around as needed.

Not just the manufacturers of ships and airplanes, but the construction firms also use a fixed position layout.

In several cases, when the project site has limited space, the product will have to assembled at different sites and then transported to the project site and assembled.

This type of layout is commonly used in various service industries including pest control and house cleaning services.

A few last words:

Operations Managers have several options before them in terms of facility planning.

Depending on the product and processes, they must decide which layout offers the highest efficiency and savings in terms of time, labor and other financial and nonfinancial resources.

While the process layout groups workers or departments performing similar tasks together, the product or assembly line layout moves high volume goods in an assembly line fashion.

The cellular layout offers some distinct advantages including superior quality, improved worker morale, faster completion times and lower inventory levels.

For the firms manufacturing large products that cannot be moved about easily, the fixed-position layout works.

Planning the facility layout is a critical step for operations manager when carrying out the production planning process.

Selecting the right layout will help maximize performance and quality and achieve improved output.

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