Plant layouts- Definition and objectives

Plant layout means the disposition of the various facilities (equipments, material, manpower etc.)  within the areas of the site selected. Plant layout begins with the design of the factory building and goes up to the location and movement of work. All the facilities like equipment, raw material, machinery, tools, fixtures, workers etc. are given a proper place. In the words of James Lundy, “It identically involves the allocation of space and the arrangement of equipment in such a manner that overall cost are minimized”. According to MoNaughton Waynel, “A good layout results in comforts, convenience, appearance, safety and profit. A poor layout results in congestion, waste, frustration and inefficiency”.

Plant layout is very complex in nature as it involves concept relating to such fields as engineering, architecture, economics and business administration. Hence a  plant layout, with  proper design, encompasses all production and service facilities and provides for the most effective utilization of men, with materials and machines constituting the process, is a master blue print for coordinating all operations.

Objectives of a Good Plant Layout

The principal objective of a proper plant layout is to maximize the production at the minimum of the costs. This objective should be kept in mind while designing a layout for a new plant as well as while making the necessary changes in the exiting layout in response to change in management polices and processes and techniques of production with the production system, i.e. workers, supervisors and managers.

If a layout is to fulfill this goal, it should be planned with the following clear objectives in mind.

  • There is the proper utilization of cubic (i.e. length, width and height). Maximum use of volume available should be made. For example, conveyors can be run above head height and used as moving work in progress or tools and equipments can be suspended from the ceiling. The principle is particularly true in stores where goods can be stored at considerable height without inconvenience.
  • Waiting time of the semi-finished products is minimized.
  • Working conditions are safer, better (well ventilated rooms etc.) and improved
  • Material handling and transportation is minimized and efficiently controlled. For this , one has to consider the movement distances between different work areas as well as the number of times such movements occur per unit period of time.
  • The movements made by the worker are minimized.
  • Suitable spaces are allocated to production centers.
  • Plant maintenance is simpler.
  • There is increased flexibility for changes in product design and for future expansion. It must be capable of incorporating, without major changes, new equipment to meet technological requirement or to eliminate waste.
  • A good layout permits material to move through the plant at the desired speed with the lowest cost.
  • There is increased productivity and better product quality with reduced capital cost.
  • Boosting up employee morale by providing employee comforts and satisfaction.
  • The work should be so arranged the there is no difficulty in supervision, coordination and control. There should be no ‘hiding-places’ into which goods can be mislaid. Goods – raw materials and ready stocks – must be readily observed at all times. It will reduce the pilferage of material and labour.

It should be noted here that the above stated objectives of plant layout are laudable in themselves; it is often difficult to reconcile all of them in a practical situation. And as such, the highest level of skill and judgment are required to be exercised. For this, close association between the entrepreneurs and experienced engineers is a must.

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