Factory Layout Principles

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Mark Allington, December 2006


This note is intended to provide guidance on laying out machines in a factory, based upon decisions about the type of manufacturing process to be accommodated.

Laying out a factory involves deciding where to put all the facilities, machines, equipment and staff in the manufacturing operation.

Layout determines the way in which materials and other inputs (like people and information) flow through the operation. Relatively small changes in the position of a machine in a factory can affect the flow of materials considerably. This in turn can affect the costs and effectiveness of the overall manufacturing operation. Getting it wrong can lead to inefficiency, inflexibility, large volumes of inventory and work in progress, high costs and unhappy customers. Changing a layout can be expensive and difficult, so it is best to get it right first time.

The first decision is to determine the type of manufacturing operation that must be accommodated. This depends on product volume and variety. At one extreme, the factory will produce a wide variety of bespoke products in small volumes, each of which is different (this is called a ‘jobbing’ operation). At the other extreme it will produce a continuous stream of identical products in large volumes. Between the extremes, the factory might produce various sized batches of a range of different products.


Once the type of operation has been selected (jobbing, batch or continuous) the basic layout type needs to be selected. There are three basic types:

• Process layout
• Cell layout
• Product layout

Jobbing operations (high variety/low volume) tend to adopt a process layout. Batch operations (medium variety and volume) adopt either a cell or process layout. Continuous operations (low variety/high volume) adopt a product layout.

1. Process layout

In process layout, similar manufacturing...
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