Improving Plant Layout with Lean Flow
December 09, 2013
If you’re moving your manufacturing operation or running up against capacity constraints, your company has a perfect opportunity to benefit from improved plant layout using the principles of lean flow.
We can sometimes fall prey to a series of bad habits, leaving equipment and inventory where they are because it’s convenient – yet not efficient. This is a trap we can fall into and also be blind to without some outside perspective. You probably spend a good amount of time working on improving your production processes. But chances are that you haven’t applied that same discipline to improving the physical space that houses your operations, perhaps since you last moved.
can be hiding
in plain sight.
Some new perspective combined with a well-designed process to consider product flow can often uncover improvements using existing assets.
In fact, on several occasions we have been able to show companies considering a move or an additional build-out that the existing footprint they had was sufficient by improving their existing plant layout. Once you step back and get the right tools and perspective, you can start to understand your space better, so you can manage it more efficiently.
Finding the “Aha Moments” of Improved Plant Layout
The Value Stream Mapping process, part of the Continuous Improvement toolkit , helps us determine the best ways to improve product flow through a facility. Plant layout focuses on flow, and the logistics of getting the product to market most efficiently. Marrying Value Stream Mapping with the proper logistics plan, “Aha!” moments often result.
Whether you’re moving or feeling a need to expand, Value Stream Mapping can uncover valuable opportunities to streamline using Lean thinking. It focuses on what’s happening at the piece/part level, then expands to the consider customer values and requirements to find efficiencies, like handling parts fewer times. The detailed nature of Value Stream Mapping captures every aspect of your manufacturing steps from beginning to end, capturing the time each step takes and noting any inventory building up between each step.
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Value Stream Mapping alone does not take into consideration some important space and safety issues. The process is also insensitive to the physical constraints of the facility, focusing on a high-level view of how individual piece parts go through plant. This is where combining the process with the right plant logistics comes in. While every plant is different, typically our Plant Layout services help companies capitalize on the benefits of Value Stream Mapping related to their products, plus the benefits of logistics improvements that deliver additional efficiencies they didn’t expect at the outset.
Our Plant Layout services give clients a two-dimensional view of their proposed new floor plan and a full-scale representation of where equipment, inventory, and finished goods will be located. We can then ensure that the Value Stream Mapping results are not corrupted in any way by the new plant layout.
Managing Plant Layout Changes Effectively
The most threatening problem in executing a new plant layout can be staff resistance to the impending change. It’s crucial that owners and major stakeholders responsible for managing the transition involve their key staff in the process. Limited staff exposure to the effort will always deliver limited results! Efforts like consolidating divisions, reorganizing existing divisions, and moving major equipment affect everyone in the facility. A team approach makes the effort that much more successful. We help clients develop the appropriate steering committee to support the process changes, plant layout changes, or moving logistics, getting them on board early on and helping them gather the broader staff support required.
Once you start scrutinizing your equipment and logistics, there is a natural opportunity to consider energy improvements also, as well as waste treatment and waste streams. When possible, we can connect the new plant layout with energy saving incentives with the input of our Energy Consulting group, which is well-versed in environmental health and safety. Our efforts to improve plant layout also extend to assisting the tradespeople setting up the facility, handling power, water, air, lighting, etc. To maintain the integrity of the new layout, we work with them to find optimal places for wiring, tubing and other equipment.
How do you know if there are opportunities for Lean Flow in your facility? Take a hard look at your facility.
- Do you think you’re utilizing space in the best way possible?
- Are you experiencing bottlenecks, poor customer service, or late deliveries (which often result from bottlenecks)?
- Is your inventory looking fine, while your customer service is suffering?
- If you thought, quite literally, out of the box – forget the walls, pipes, drains and everything else – what would you do differently?
What if there were no limits or constraints? Your new plant layout should capture the essence of that thinking, whether you’re redesigning an existing space or moving production to a new one.
Find Your Opportunities
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You know your machines, your processes, your tooling, your staff – but how well do you really understand your space, and its possibilities? Here’s a parting thought: everything occupying space but not producing product is limiting your profits.
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