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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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Now, we have a central area up front which is a carpeted showroom and reception area, followed by a bank of sales offices and conference rooms, flanked on both ends by the cleaner, non-office functions such as digital file prep, scanning, that sort of stuff on one end, and accounting on the other. Then, beyond the big wall is a production floor with 24-foot ceilings, daylight-correct lighting, lots of airflow, power, and Internet as well as compressed air down every major column. We had power centers built so it could be reconfigured into whatever it would need to be next. I really didn’t care what the current use was, but I wanted to be sure that with a fairly minimum amount of work, we could stick something else in there. So all of the power feeds, for example, are all three-phase power and very heavy.

Furst: We started out in handpainting and traditional screen printing. And, as you know, screen printing equipment is not so easy to move-certainly not as easy as a digital press. You have a lot of venting, they’re big heavy machines, and they’re long, awkward, and fragile.

Also, we’re in West Los Angeles, where it’s congested, the land is hard to come by and it’s not cheap. This is a family business, and my father and I live one mile from the business; we made a decision early on to stay there. Due to that decision, however, we’re saddled with some issues: very restrained spaces and old buildings.

So we started in one facility on one side of the street, beginning with 5000 to 10,000 square feet. There were buildings next door and we acquired those, then we jumped across the street and down the street.

As we continued to grow and brought in the digital equipment, we realized that it wasn’t going to be easy to move the screens, but the digital, yes, we could move those around and push them into different corners and do whatever we had to do. And that has continued to be our dilemma, as well as our strategy. As we continue to acquire new equipment, we continue to evaluate our space, and do the best with what we have and what additional space we can get.

Q: What are some primary issues to consider when planning a new layout and workflow?