Impact of shop floor layout on productivity of a factory

Introduction
The productivity of a factory has always been tried to optimize to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The very topic of boosting productivity has spawned different streams of management sciences (Lean, Kanban and so on). When the assembly line became popular (thanks to the Ford revolution), it was instantly picked up by factories all around the world. It continues to be in practice today, albeit with several modifications. But firms soon started noticing problems with it and decided to put their own spin on it or opt for other manufacturing methods. All of this was done to serve the earlier-stated dual purpose of improving efficiency and reducing costs.
Of all the measures, the layout of the shop floor is one of the prime contenders for tweaking. A facility layout that is effective and well-designed can save anywhere between 10% and 30% in manufacturing expenses. Shop floor layout is the entire arrangement of machines and workstations that allows smooth movement of raw materials and workers around the floor. An effective shop layout also keeps in mind the safety and security of the workers.
Here are some of the most important parameters that are impacted by shop floor layout.
Impact of shop floor layout on productivity

  1. Shop floor layout impacts the throughput- The throughput of a factory is defined as the time needed to manufacture one unit of product. This parameter directly translates into the workers’ productivity. In one industrial experiment, the throughput was boosted by transforming a straight assembly line to a U-shaped assembly line. This helped the workers move more freely in the U-configuration that led them to be more productive.
  2. Shop floor layout impacts the lateness- The lateness of a factory production unit is calculated by subtracting the due date time from the job completion time from the due date time. If this value is negative, then the lateness is interpreted as ‘earliness’ which is good for the factory unit. Rearranging a shop floor layout can reduce a unit’s lateness. For example, in the job shop layout (as opposed to the flow line layout), groups similar activities or processes into sub-units and seeks to maximize the efficiency of individual processes. This strategy helps combat the lateness where the variety of products being manufactured is high.
  3. Shop floor layout increase labor productivity- Even if we have throughput that is an indirect indicator of productivity, the labor productivity itself can be measured for a specific worker by dividing the number of units that a worker produces per hour. Of all the shop floor layouts, the cellular layout is aimed at improving the productivity. Cellular layout also groups together processes as with the job-shop. But the criteria for categorization involves evaluating the shape or size of the final product being manufactured. The idea for it is to group different workstations into one unit or cell. This further pushes the productivity of workers who can work on different workstations under a cellular layout.
  4. Shop floor layout impacts the workers’ safety and motivation- The layout of a floor has a bearing on how the workers perceive their work and their safety. A layout that encourages clear communication is good to resolve conflicting opinions quickly. A layout must also factor in the little but important details like having the building evacuation plan and the firefighting equipment at the right place. The design must take into account the disaster management plans in place and adhere to the best industry standards. While this is not directly related to productivity, but it can definitely be stated that safe and well-motivated workers will always be more productive.


Conclusion

As observed, the shop floor layout has a profound impact on the overall productivity of a factory. Experimenting with the shop floor layout can always be a useful exercise as it reveals possible bottlenecks in the system and throws light on all the areas of improvement.

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