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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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Rieger: What drove us in the decision to move was the realization that in the old plant there was no way to get efficient production any longer. For example, we put in a Rho printer about six months before moving; this is a 17-foot-wide printer that we put in a 25-foot-wide concrete block bay, and we could barely get materials from one side of it to the other. So we knew there was no way to do efficient manufacturing in a chopped-up building like that. And we could see it in our numbers; we had stuff everywhere, people everywhere running around-we were just incredibly inefficient.

Also, in an older building like ours, the heat loads of these new pieces of equipment were beginning to come into play. It was getting to a point where stuff would just shut down. In the middle of summer in Washington, where it gets to 100 degrees with 100-percent humidity, I don’t care how many A/C systems you have cranking, they can’t keep up. The servers would just shut down.

The morale of the employees was another factor. In an old warehouse building with all those cubbyholes-and some of the walls were pretty darn old-you just don’t have the same sense of pride as you do when working in a new space. And I don’t know exactly how that translates into getting the product out the door, but it does.

So from so many different perspectives, we knew we had to move. We brought everyone into the layout phase of it, working it back and forth with people to come up with the right mix of things. We also looked out at the industry for examples to model by-we looked at Kirk’s facility, for instance. We took a lot away from how Ferrari did things and incorporated these into a smaller design.