The importance of a layout would be better appreciated if one understands the influence of an efficient layout on the manufacturing function: it makes it smooth and efficient. Operating efficiencies, such as economies in the cost of handling materials, minimization of production delays and avoidance of bottlenecksâ€”all these depend on a proper layout.
An ideally laid out plant reduces manufacturing costs through reduced materials handling, reduced personnel and equipment requirements and reduced process inventory.
The objectives or advantages of an ideal layout are outlined in the paragraphs that follow. The advantages are common to all the plants, irrespective of age; and whether a plant employs 50 workers or 50,000 makes no difference in so far as the applicability of the plant layout advantages is concerned. Some of these advantages are:
Economies in Handling
Nearly 30% to 40% of the manufacturing cost is accounted for, by materials handling. Every effort should, therefore, be made to cut down on this cost. Long distance movements should be avoided and specific handling operations must be eliminated. A cynic may say that the cheapest way to handle materials is not to handle them at all. But, in a factory, materials have to be handled; and therefore, it all depends on the layout.
Effective Use of Available Area
Every inch of the plant area is valuable, especially in urban areas. Efforts should therefore be made to make use of the available area by planning the layout properly. Some steps for achieving this end are: location of equipment and services in order that they may perform multiple functions; development of up-to-date work areas and operator job assignments for a full utilization of the labor force.
Minimization of Production Delays
Repeat orders and new customers will be the result of prompt execution of orders. Every management should try to keep to the delivery schedules. Often, the deadline dates for delivery of production orders are a bug-a-boo to the management.
Plant layout is a significant factor in the timely execution of orders. An ideal layout eliminates such causes of delays as shortage of space, long-distance movements of materials, spoiled work and thus contributes to the speedy execution of orders.
Improved Quality Control
Timely execution of orders will be meaningful when the quality of the output is not below expectations. To ensure quality, inspection should be conducted at different stages of manufacture. An ideal layout provides for inspection to ensure better quality control.
Minimum Equipment Investment
Investment on equipment can be minimized by planned machine balance and location, minimum handling distances, by the installation of general purpose machines and by planned machine loading. A good plant layout provides all these advantages.
Avoidance of Bottlenecks
Bottlenecks refer to any place in a production process where materials tend to pile up or are produced at a speed, less rapid than the previous or subsequent operations. Bottlenecks are caused by inadequate machine capacity, inadequate storage space or low speed on part of the operators. The results of bottlenecks are delays in productions schedules, congestion, accidents and wastage of floor area. All these may be overcome with an efficient layout.
Better Production Control
Production Control is concerned with the production of the product of the right type, at the right time and at a reasonable cost. A good plant layout is a requisite for good production control and provides the production control officers with a systematic basis upon which to build organization and procedures.
A good plant layout ensures better supervision in two ways:
1.Determining the number of workers to be handled by a supervisor and 2.Enabling the supervisor to get a full view of the entire plant at one glance.
A good plant layout is, therefore, the first step to good supervision.
Improved Utilization of Labor
Labor is paid for every hour it spends in the factory. The efficiency of a management lies in utilizing the time for productive purpose. A good plant layout is one of the factors in effective utilization of labor. It makes possible individual operations, the process and flow of materials handling in such a way that the time of each worker is effectively spent on productive operations.
Improved Employee Morale
Employee morale is achieved when workers are cheerful and confident. This state of mental condition is vital to the success of any organization.
Morale depends on:
(a)Better working condition;
(b)Better employee facilities;
(c)Reduced number of accidents;
Plant layout has a bearing on all these.
Avoidance of Unnecessary and Costly Changes
A planned layout avoids frequent changes which are difficult and costly. The incorporation of flexibility elements in the layout would help in the avoidance of revisions.