A manufacturer has a rare opportunity to reduce costs significantly when it moves operations to a new building. Determining the optimal layout that minimizes internal movement and supports maximum productivity of people and equipment is critical.
Unfortunately, a small manufacturer planning such a move is likely running low on cash. Moving expenses, preparing inventory to support customers during a multi-day shutdown of production, and purchase or lease costs add up in a hurry. Hiring an engineering firm with software to test various layouts and the resultant people and material flow challenges may be out of reach.
If it is, all is not lost. I have helped more than one client company evaluate alternative layouts using what I call “paper doll cutouts.” By that, I mean use grid paper for proportion and floor scheme. Be sure to note supporting posts, I-beams and any other “unusable floor space.” Also note access to electrical, water, and other utilities that are important to your process. Then cut out scale paper representations of each piece of equipment (with access area for maintenance noted) and each required inventory location. Be sure to label every piece of paper clearly.
Now you can try various layouts. Place the equipment and inventory “dolls” where you think they should be. Then discuss with your team people and inventory flow, enough space to move comfortably but not so much that time and money are wasted. Three feet might sound like a wide aisle, but especially if surrounded by tall equipment, it is not. Walking 10 feet from one machine to another doesn’t sound like much, unless you are asking someone to do it 100 times per day.
Once you think you’ve got it, and presuming the new building is empty before you move in, it is time to create large cardboard cutouts of equipment and inventory storage areas. Referring to your small grid plan, put these in place on the floor. Invariably something looks different that expected.
Once you have finalized your new layout, mark the floor to clearly indicate exactly where equipment goes and which direction it is facing. The move can be completed much more quickly with this clarity.
While fancy software can evaluate more options more quickly and with more detail, even it is likely to overlook something that you won’t see until the move is complete. While “paper doll cutouts” may not sound very manufacturing-like, the process is easily understood, flexible, and effective.
Don’t miss this chance to favorably impact costs for years to come.