What is a Process or Functional layout?
In a process layout similar machines and equipment of the same functional type are arranged in one department. The processes are segregated and the machines of each process are kept together while each process is kept separately.
For example all the milling equipment would be arranged in the milling department, all the grinding machines in the grinding department and welding machines in the welding department. It requires large amount of specially designed plant operated by a small workforce.
Suitability of process layout
The process layout is suitable in the case of job order production, i.e., production is based on customer orders in which different varieties of goods are produced in small quantities. It is suitable in the case of catalytic crackers used in the refining of crude oil into petrol, kerosene, wax, rolling mills, wire drawing, chemical plants etc.
Advantages of process layout
The important advantages offered by a process layout are as follows:
1. Flexibility: It is more flexible when compared to a product layout. Changes in operations as well as their order can be made without disturbing the existing layout. Any new operation can be added.
2. Lower investment: General purpose machines which are usually of low cost are used. Duplication of machinery is avoided. Further general purpose machines do not become obsolete as rapidly as special purpose machines.
3. No stoppage of production: In case of breakdown of any machine, the whole process does not come to a standstill. Work of the machine which suffers from breakdown can be transferred to the other machines.
4. Scope for expansion: Different capacity lines can be expanded under this type of layout. New machines and labor can be added without upsetting the existing order of arrangement.
5. Full utilization of equipment: Process layout facilitates full utilization of equipment. General purpose machines are used in each department which can perform a variety of jobs. There is no need to provide a separate machine for each product line.
6. Better supervision: Because of specialization in operation, an efficient and Better supervision is possible.
Disadvantages of process layout
The following are the disadvantages of process layout:
1. Inefficient material handling: Materials have to be carried forward and backward quite frequently. Mechanization of material handling becomes difficult. Fixed path material handling equipment like conveyor belts, chutes etc cannot be used and cost of material handling is quite.
2. High space requirement: Space requirement is more than product layout. More storage space is to be provided around machines for waiting material to be processed.
3. High investment in inventory: Due to the lack of continuous flow of production there is high in-process inventory. Frequently materials have to be carried back and forth. This results in delays and therefore the investment in inventory is high.
4. High supervision cost: Cost of supervision is high because the number of employees per supervisor is less resulting in reduced span of control. Further, the work is to be checked after each operation.
5. Longer production time: Time required for production is more in the case of product layout.
6. Skilled labor required: Skilled labor needs to be employed to perform variety of operations in general purpose machines.