What is a Plant Layout?
Once a suitable location of the plant has been decided upon, the next important issue is the design of the layout. Plant layout is the plan for arranging the physical facilities and manpower required to manufacture a product with the objective of utilizing them in an effective manner.
Plant Layout is also known as facilities design. Plant layout constitutes planning of the amount of space required for all kind of activities in an industry, i.e., equipment, machinery, furniture and fittings, offices, rest rooms, warehouses etc. The primary objective of plant layout is to minimize the movement of men and materials in the plant.
Importance of a plant layout
Designing a proper layout is important because it has a direct relationship with efficiency of operations and cost of production. A poorly designed layout will result in inefficiencies and losses throughout the existence of the plant. As Decisions regarding plant layout cannot be taken once and for all. Changes in process and techniques of production necessitate changes in plant layout. It is therefore important to design the layout in such a way that it is flexible to change.
Objectives of plant layout
The primary objective of plant layout is to maximize production at minimum cost. The layout should be designed in such a way that it is flexible to change according to new processes and production techniques. The layout should be able to satisfy the needs of all those who are associated with the production system such as workers, supervisors, managers etc., to fulfill the above goals, the plant layout should be designed with the following objectives:
1. Minimizing handling of materials.
2. Maintaining flexibility of operations.
3. Ensuring optimum utilization of men, materials, equipment and available space.
4. Achieving good work flow and avoiding accumulation of work.
5. Minimizing delays and bottlenecks in the production system.
6. Ensuring safety of workmen by minimizing and eliminating the chances of accidents.
7. Providing for effective supervision and production control.
8. Minimizing work-in-process inventory.
9. Providing sufficient and conveniently located service centres.
10. Flexibility in design to adapt to the changing future requirements.
Steps involved in designing a plant layout
Since decisions regarding layout design have considerable impact in the efficiency and profitability of a firm it requires careful consideration. The following are the steps involved in designing a layout:
1. Collection of required data: Data about the size of the plant, type of products to be produced, method of production to be adopted, extent of space available, extent of mechanization etc are to be collected.
2. Preparation of blueprint for the floor plan: Based on the data gathered, a blue print has to be prepared for the floor plan. Care should be taken to ensure,that the layout provides for unhindered movement of men and materials with minimum possible effort and time.
3. Preparation of process chart and flow diagram: The process chart and flow diagram depicting the various activities to be performed and the linkages between them has to be prepared.
4. Preparation of draft layout: A draft layout needs to be prepared clearly depicting the positioning of men and materials and the process flow. The draft layout should be circulated and discussions held with employees inviting suggestions for improvement. Flaws pointed out need to be corrected and suggestions received incorporated after due discussions.
5. Test run: A test run is important to understand the efficiency of the layout in a real time work environment. Problems not noticed in the earlier stages can occur at this stage. The initial problems noticed need to be modified and test runs should be continued for at-least a few times to ensure that the layout is able to facilitate maximum production at minimum cost.