What’s a Process Layout?

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A process layout organizes similar processes or machines together, while a product layout organizes equipment according to sequential steps. Designing a process layout involves needs and location analysis, followed by a block layout and a detailed layout. A process layout is more efficient for low to medium speed manufacturing and custom work. A hybrid layout combines process and product layouts.

A process layout is a type of facility layout where the floor plan is organized with similar processes or machines positioned together. For example, a machine shop with mills positioned together, lathes positioned together, saws positioned together, etc., is organized with a process layout. This differs from a product layout where equipment is laid out according to sequential steps involved in manufacturing a product, such as on an assembly line.

Designing a process layout begins with a needs analysis. This analysis takes into account a number of factors to ensure that the final layout is sufficient for all necessary facility functions. The needs analysis evaluates which departments will occupy the facility, how much space each will require, and how each will be configured. Details of the types of equipment needed and how much of each is also determined at this stage of the design process.

Next, location analysis is performed to determine the locations of each department. This analysis defines two location variables for each department. The absolute position of a department is the space it occupies relative to the structure. Its relative position is its placement relative to other departments of the facility.

Once these analyzes are completed, a block layout is documented showing the overall general layout of the departments on the plant floor plan. This not only takes into account the relative locations of the departments, but also the amount of space each one will occupy. From this block layout, a more detailed layout is developed with specific locations of each piece of equipment. This ensures that there is space for equipment to be configured as needed, space between workstations, and space for workers and vehicles to move around safely. Once the process layout is complete, the plant is ready for equipment installation.

In a low to medium speed manufacturing facility, a process layout may be a more efficient choice than a product layout. Any particular piece of equipment may be used more often because it can be used for more than one product. In a product layout situation with low throughput, more units may be needed for separate product lines even if they sometimes sit idle. A process layout is also more amenable to custom work as the equipment is not dedicated to specific tasks in specific workflows. This type of layout is also sometimes referred to as a flexible flow layout.

A plant floor plan can be set up entirely with a particular type of layout. In some manufacturing environments, however, the workflow and available equipment may obviously require neither a process layout nor a product layout. A floor plan set up so that one part is a process layout and another part is a product layout is called a hybrid layout.

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