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Plant Layout and The Bottom Line

(March 2008) posted on Thu Mar 06, 2008

Four shops discuss how to improve facility layout and workflow.

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Q: Was there a specific area of the shop or any single factor that seemed to require a lot more thought than others?

Green: Ours was figuring out who needed to be closer to what other groups, and putting them there. Where did sales need to be, where did our project coordinators need to be? Where did accounting need to be? And that’s where we spent most of our time-trying to analyze proximity.

Rieger: In our case it was the packaging and shipping area. We got it wrong at first and just recently redid the whole area.

Q: How about divisions between sales and production-have your facility designs strived to maintain a separation between those two departments?

Green: I think we do a disservice to ourselves sometimes because we help foster that production-sales division. So we’ve gone the other way-we want our production people out on sales calls and we want our sales people out on the floor.

Q: Any tips on software or customizing software to help out with workflow?

Furst: There needs to be tracking and accountability and reports, but be careful on who you select. We’re about to deploy a new CRM and general production-management system, and we’re going to use a Microsoft product. I don’t think you need a specialty product any more; perhaps five or seven years ago there wasn’t the ability to customize programs that there is now. I would encourage a shop to look at your specific business model and what your clients need, and consider customizing your own system. We all have niches and specialties, and very few of us would use all the features that these companies load their systems up for, but you can build your own by selecting what’s important to you pretty efficiently.

Rieger: I’d agree with that. If I were to do it today starting from scratch, I would do so starting with industry-standard software, not get something that’s sold as a management package or a production-flow package. Just build it around a database. There’s lots of talent out there who work really cheap, and you can put one of those guys on your staff-to do other things as well-and then build it the way you need it. Because you won’t be able to buy it that way, and you won’t be able to convince the companies who are selling that stuff to customize it for you-it just won’t happen. If you do it yourself, you get exactly what you need, and it‘ll work for you, and if it doesn’t work, you can still tweak it.

The Signage and Graphics Summit ( is an annual event for executives from high-volume sign, digital-printing and screen-printing companies to discuss common challenges, learn best practices, and explore new avenues for growth as these industries converge. The 2009 Signage and Graphics Summit will be held January 26-28, 2009 at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego.