Factors Influencing Plant Layouts

The basic objective of any plant layout is to ensure a smooth flow of work, material, and information through a system. The basic meaning of plant is the space in which a business’s activities take place. The layout and design of that space impact greatly how the work is done-the flow of work, materials, and information through the system. The key to good plant layout and design is the integration of the needs of people (personnel and customers), materials (raw, finishes, and in process), and machinery in such a way that they create a single, well-functioning system.

Recommended reading: Plant layouts – Definition and Objectives

The following are some important factors, which influence the planning of effective layout to a significant degree.

1. Nature of the product: The nature of the product to be manufactured will significantly affect the layout of the plant. Stationary layout will be most suitable for heavy products while line layout will be best for the manufacture for the light products because small and light products can be moved from one machine to another very easily and, therefore, more attention can be paid to machine locations can be paid to machine locations and handling of materials.

2. Volume of production: Volume of production and the standardization of the product also affect the type of layout. If standardized commodities are to be manufactured on large scale, line type of layout may be adopted.

3. Basic managerial policies and decisions: The type of layout depends very much on the decisions and policies of the management to be followed in producing the commodity with regard to the size of plant, kind and quality of the product, scope for expansion to be provided for, the extent to which the plant is to be integrated, amount of stocks to be carried at anytime, the kind of employee facilities to be provided etc.

4. Nature of plant location: The size shape and topography of the site at which the plant is located will naturally affect the type of layout to be followed in view of the maximum utilization of the space available .For e.g., if a site is near the railway line the arrangement of general layout for receiving and shipping and for the best flow of production in and out the plant may be made by the side of the railway lines .If space is narrow and the production process is lengthy, the layout of plant may be arranged on the land surface in the following manner:

5. Type of industry process: This is one of the most important factors influencing the choice of type of plant layout. Generally the types of layout particularly the arrangement of machines and work centers and the location of workmen vary according to the nature of the industry to which the plant belongs. For the purpose of lay out, industry may be classified into two broad categories: (i) Intermittent and (ii) continuous. Intermittent type of industries is those, which manufacture different component or different machines. Such industries may manufacture the parts, when required according to the market needs. Examples of such industries are shipbuilding plants. In this type of industry functional layout may be the best. The second type of industry in ‘continuous industry. in this type of industry raw material are fed at one end and the finished goods are received at another end. A continuous industry may either be analytical or synthetic. A analytical industry breaks up the raw material into several parts during the course of production process or changes its form, e.g. oil and sugar refineries. A synthetic industry on the other hand mixes the two or more materials to manufacture one product along with the process of production or assembles several parts to get finished product. Cement and automobiles industries are the examples of such industry. Line layout is more suitable in continuous process industries.

6. Types of methods of production: Layout plans may be different according to the method of production proposed to be adopted. Any of the following three methods may be adopted for production- (1) Job order production, (2) batch production, and (3) mass production. Under job production goods are produced according to the orders of the customers and therefore, specification vary from customer to customer and the production cannot be standardized. The machines and equipment can be arranged in a manner to suit the need of all types of customers. Batch production carries the production of goods in batches or group at intervals. In this type of manufacturing the product is standardized and production is made generally in anticipation of sales. In such cases functional or process layout may be adopted. In case of mass production of standardized goods, line layout is most suitable form of plant layout.

7. Nature of machines: Nature of machines and equipment also affects the layout of plants. If machines are heavy in weight or create noisy atmosphere, stationery layout may reasonably be adopted. Heavy machines are generally fixed on the ground floor. Ample space should be provided for complicated machines to avoid accidents.

8. Climate: Sometimes, temperature, illumination and air are the deciding factors in the location of machines and their establishments. For example, in lantern manufacturing industry, the spray-painting room is built along the factory wall to ensure the required temperature control and air expulsion and the process of spray painting may be undertaken.

9.Nature of material: Design and specification of materials, quantity and quality of materials and combination of materials are probably the most important factors to be considered in planning a layout. So, materials storage, space, volume and weight of raw materials, floor load capacity, ceiling height ,method of storing etc. should be given special consideration. This will affect the space and the efficiency of the production process in the plant. It will facilitate economic production of goods and prompt materials flow and soundly conceived materials handling system.

10. Type of machine: Machines and equipment may be either general purpose or special purpose. In addition certain tools are used. The requirements of each machine and equipment are quite different in terms of their space; speed and material handling process and these factors should be given proper consideration while choosing out a particular type of layout. This should also be considered that each machine and equipment is used to its fullest capacity because machines involve a huge investment. For instance, under product layout, certain machines may not be used to their full capacity so care should be taken to make full use of the capacity of the machines and equipment.

12. Human factor and working conditions: Men are the most important factor of production and therefore special consideration for their safety and comforts should be given while planning a layout, specific safety items like obstruction-free floor, workers not exposed to hazards, exit etc. should be provided for. The layout should also provide for the comforts to the workers such as provision of rest rooms, drinking water and other services etc. sufficient space is also to be provided for free movement of workers.

13. Characteristics of the building: Shape of building, covered and open area, number of storeys, facilities of elevators, parking area and so on also influence the layout plan. In most of the cases where building is hired, layout is to be adjusted within the spaces available in the building. Although minor modification may be done to suit the needs of the plants and equipment. But if any building is to be constructed, proper care should be given to construct it according to the layout plan drawn by experts. Special type of construction is needed to accommodate huge or technical or complex or sophisticated machines and equipment.

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