How Plant Managers Optimize The Design Of Factories


Factories are the foundation of a growing economy. In terms of the production that a country can take on, increasing the number of companies that take on manufacturing will, in turn, increase its gross domestic product (GDP). To optimize the production capacity of a factory, the design of a production plant should cater to the specific needs of the product or service and the abilities of the workers.

The plant manager is responsible for overseeing the entire production and making changes in the design to increase the overall production capacity. Before the land is prepared for construction, the planning takes months or years, depending on the complexities involved in the project. Here are some considerations made by the plant manager during the feasibility study phase of the project:

Time And Motion Analysis

Engineers conducting the feasibility study are often requested to conduct a time and motion analysis. The McDonald Brothers worked for efficiency by going through multiple iterations of their first Mcdonald’s Restaurant, testing each one to see which layout would provide the fastest burger to their customer. In the same way, engineers need to consider the most efficient layout for the production workers. The goal will be to have an efficient production line without backtracking.

First, the time it takes per action is considered (especially if it a manual process). Although the individual being timed is not a professional, efficient employee time is calculated to be 25% shorter. This rule of thumb is used to determine the actual time spent in each workstation. The processes per station and in between stations will be repeated repeatedly until the time and motion between and each station are determined.

Multiple Iterations of the Layout

As mentioned earlier, plant managers go through iterations of what their factory will be designed. The first consideration is to make sure that the proximity of each workstation is only desired. The undesired closeness of certain workstations, such as a waste management station next to the food preparation station, will be avoided at this stage.

The process layout will be a basis for the overall layout of the plant as those designing will aim for a more linear process to minimize accidents and lessen the number of mistakes made by each employee. It is complex to determine the most heuristic solution for a dynamic process, especially if there are many people on the production floor. But it is better to prepare a design before construction rather than deconstruct the building later on due to a change in the layout.

Effective Communication

For employees and supervisors to communicate efficiently, there are many considerations in preparing the plant layout. Again, the proximity of their offices and stations is decided early on. This will ensure that there will be easier information dissemination and a more convenient walk toward whoever is in charge or responsible for a station.

However, most factories are huge. There is a great area to be covered, and even though there are workstations that are designated to be close to one another, the stations themselves can be massive. That is why many industries incorporated a satellite push-to-talk (PTT) system in their effective communication line to have uninterrupted conversations and reduce the chances of costly miscommunication.

Minimized Human Error

Factories are heading toward more mechanized production lines to minimize human error. The limitations are that not every process has equipment readily designed. This indicates that there are still jobs requiring people to fabricate materials or even remove seeds from a piece of fruit like soursop. Although the goal is to reduce the errors committed, there is still more to be done in terms of equipment design that can maximize efficiency while focusing on the safety and quality of the product.

Conveyor belts are an example of reducing human error in a factory. They will transport the material or the product without being at risk of being dropped by a person working on the production line. They will be transported from point A to point B with ease, freeing hired workers for other jobs that cannot be mechanized yet.

There are other considerations in designing a factory, but efficiency is usually the main goal. Aside from the capacity of the plant, the production per day could be one of the limitations in production. This is why plant managers try to increase the number of products or services produced per day.

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