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Your Facilities' Design

Layout of Facilities

Consider your Strategic Objective and then ask yourself if your facility should be designed to support collaborative work, individualized work, or both?

Do people need quiet areas to think, or do they work as a group? Do you need meeting spaces, social spaces, private spaces, or flexible spaces? Private, soundproof offices, for example, would support an entirely different type of work from a large, shared workspace.

Activity Centres

Just as you have organized your business activities according to their function, so too should you organize your business activities according to their needs for physical space. For the purpose of discussion, we'll refer to these units of space as “Activity Centres.”

Activity Centres are physical areas within a business that have a specific purpose. They could be anything from a workstation to the company lunchroom and could contain any number of people, or even no people, such as a storage space. Once defined, Activity Centres can be used to organize the people, equipment, and space required to produce your products and services as efficiently as possible.

List your various Activity Centres along with their space requirements for your business.

Facility Design

Consider the working relationships that exist in your business. Keeping in mind the physical limitations of your space, how should your various activity centres be positioned in your facility? This is where your Operational Strategy comes into play. Remember, it is usually best to focus your resources on what you do best and your facility layout should be no exception.

There are four basic production scenarios to consider.

  1. Process Layout — This is the act of arranging activity centres according to their function. For example, use a process layout if you need to position similar equipment (such as all cutting equipment) in the same area. A grocery store with its distinct departments is another good example. The process layout may work best for you if you require flexibility from your production department.

  2. Product Layout — This is the act of positioning activity centres in order to create individual products or accomplish specific tasks. Use a product layout if you require repetitive or continuous production. An assembly line is a good example. In this case, the placement of Activity Centres tends to be fairly straightforward. Activity “A” comes before activity “B,” which comes before activity “C,” and so forth, limiting many of your layout options.

  3. Hybrid Layout — In many cases, production needs are a mixture of the above, not one or the other. If your business combines manufacturing with assembly work, for example, you may find that a process layout works best for the former, while a product layout works best for the latter.

  4. Mobile Layout — When working on a product that is difficult or impossible to move (i.e. a large ship, a house, or a client's office), it is often more practical to bring the workers, equipment, and materials to the product rather than the other way around. The challenge here is to design a layout that works in a mobile environment.

It is also important to layout your facility so that it humanizes your workplace. Your most valuable assets are your people, so it is wise to consider the emotional impact their workplace has on them, in addition to issues of efficiency. Even seemingly simple things like lighting and colour can have an impact. While your goal concerning these decisions is decidedly operational, more efficient production for example, you will find your work on Corporate Culture of particular help here.

As with every other part of your business, the layout of your production facility should reflect your Corporate Strategy. Your Marketing Strategy will be of primary concern if your facility is directly involved in promotions or sales, such as a retail outlet, but it's your Operational Strategy along with your Corporate Culture that will help you to identify and enhance its impact on your business operations.

The following questions will help you to identify your facility layout needs.

  1. How might your facility reflect your Corporate Culture? If your intent is to promote a co-operative working environment, for example, then you may want to design adequate social and meeting spaces. You may even want to design workspaces that enable employees to work in full view of each other.

  2. How might your facility layout reflect your Marketing Strategy? This is a marketing question, but it merits consideration here. I know of an automobile insurance company, for example, that has been designed without a service counter. Instead, they have several small tables spread out in an attractive lobby. By meeting with each customer at a separate desk, customers are made to feel important.

Now design your ideal facility layout. Look back over your Strategic Objective, and then play around with ideas until you get it right. It's a fun and inspiring process, so enjoy it. You may or may not ever set up a facility exactly as this, but it will act as a guide for future development much the same way your Virtual Prototype works for product development.

In most cases, it pays to hire an expert to help you design a space that is highly productive, visually appealing and properly reflective of your corporate culture.

Step one is to draw the outer walls of your new or existing facility.

In step two, design the general layout of your various Activity Centres, using the same scale as your facility outline, and then cut them out. Even if you used software to build the design, it can still be a useful exercise to see different options of how the pieces will relate to each other.

facilities layouts

And finally, in step three you'll arrange your Activity Centres on your facility outline. Because they are cut out, you will be able to play around with various scenarios until you find the one that works best for you. Of course if you are using a computer, you will be able to print out a variety of scenarios to review simultaneously.

The result of all of this work may be that you wish to make some upgrades to your current facility. If this is the case, use the chart below to organize your thoughts and make some preliminary plans.

Physical ChangesEstimated CostsImplementation DateAcountability
Move the design department next to the foreman's office by moving the storage area to the back. The storage area should be redesigned at the same time.$10,000September 20XXC. Crawford