Thu, Oct

Spaced out?

For those of you thinking of extending your workspace Phil Thompson, head of BPIF Business, gives you a down to earth take on the key considerations.  

Due to the challenging nature of the last four or five years, there will be very few companies that have got through them unaffected. Some will have adapted smoothly while others will have had to change business models and practices. As a result, the way that work flows through the production process and how this fits into the space available to the business may no longer be appropriate. So are you one of those looking to change your factory layout, extend your space, or even considering a complete move? 

Efficient companies constantly monitor and evaluate the production flows through the business; from this it is not a big step to then map that in terms of space requirement.

When looking at your options, spend time observing the activities on the shopfloor and in the operations and administration areas as it will prove a valuable insight into the philosophy of the team as well as playing a part in determining the most suitable layout for the business, and its employees.

During the observation phase collect data too - basic information on how materials flow through the factory for instance. It will highlight where there are likely to be bottlenecks and where space is required for buffer stock, work in progress where print may need to stand for a period before subsequent operations can be performed, etc.

At this stage it is important to obtain an overall picture of what is happening in a factory, or is likely to happen, so produce supporting documentation - for instance, a workflow relationship diagram which identifies the path of all products or product groups from process to process.

Once the activities have been determined and the volume movements between operations established, future development of the business can be taken into account by adding extra processes to the diagram and the projected volumes taken from the long-term sales predictions or business plan.


Once the workflow relationship diagram has been determined the physical dimensions of all machines, equipment and processes should be obtained. Of course at this point methods of operation need to be taken into account, including materials handling space requirements – and consideration can be given to the possibility of linking machines/processes by means of conveyors etc.

The efficiency of the layout will be governed by methods of operation which take into account performing activities within machine cycles thus quite often eliminating the cost element of a job such as packing, sorting, checking etc.

Creating alternative layouts will recognise the physical and financial constraints, operating conditions such as temperature, atmospheric conditions and cleanliness. In other words a practical solution that is cost effective. Where the design of a new factory is involved in particular, it is important to try a number of layout options.


In many projects where a layout change is required within existing premises,

alt solutions will vary significantly, constrained by existing buildings shapes; for this reason a tailored solution is the only practical answer. When investing in this type of project, it is an excellent opportunity to improve the business significantly, so to make the most of it; thorough and effective planning at the start is essential. 

Most layouts will be required to provide relative positions for all equipment in a factory but depending on the situation the layout can also be marked out as part of the functional specification to show power, drains, water and other services requirements which may be necessary particularly for the design and costing of a new building.

Ostensibly it would appear that providing a layout is a means of indicating where in a factory each piece of equipment is to be located; in realty the layout is the final result of the functional design of the operation of a business.

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