Lean Layout Fundamentals

Designing a layout for your facility is a hefty project that really takes both sides of the brain to draw out all your creativity and scientific knowledge in order to be successful. The growth of Lean concepts and processes over the past decade has shifted many facilities to adopt a Lean layout on their floors. The results of a successful Lean layout can dramatically improve your facilities efficiency and flexibility when it comes to production swings.

A veteran Lean practitioner may understand the essentials that go into this design process, but for those struggling with this concept, it may be helpful to understand the fundamentals of a Lean layout to help get started.

Lean Layout 101

Lean layout 101 For starters, it is important to separate a Lean layout from other design templates like functional and line layouts. The goal of a Lean layout is to increase efficiency and allow for flexibility in your production process. This is done by focusing on the sequences in the process and linking them together, not the function in which they operate.

In a functional layout, products have to move through several departments before completion. This adds several processes to the overall production. This decreases your efficiency and adds a lot more handling of each individual part in the process. Also, parts have to wait for other parts to be finished in order to be completed, slowing the process down.

Through the use of U-shaped cells, a lean layout aligns work stations to work hand in hand with each other. By taking a piece of equipment and the step in the process and locating them next to each other creates an efficient flow in the process. A series of U-shaped cells is called a cellular layout.

A line layout may be more efficient than a functional layout, but it lacks two things that a Lean layout thrives on; individual effort and creativity. Both of these concepts are completely eliminated from the products design and finished product in a line layout.

Three Parts to a Lean Layout

Since the first manufacturing plant opened, engineers have been working towards designing a more efficient method to manufacture goods. This mindset falls right in line with Lean thinking. Improvement should always be at the forefront, but understanding the fundamentals for what you’re trying to improve is essential to the process. For a proper Lean layout, there are three main fundamentals that need to be addressed.

  1. One-Piece Flow: This type of system focuses specifically on the sequences in the process. Workers only work on one unit or product at a time and then pass it along to the next process. This has had a significant impact on reducing time, wastes, and improving value-added activities in many Lean organizations.
  2. Reducing Transportation of Parts and Motion: The minimization of movement is always going to increase efficiency. This is done by placing equipment in the proper sequence in the process. By reducing the amount of movement needed by your workers to complete their task, you will also reduce the strain on them, reducing possible health issues over time.
  3. Minimization of Space: Poorly utilized space is wasteful and can be costly to your improvement efforts. All objects within your facility need to be evaluated to determine the least amount of space needed to be efficient and keep production levels flexible.

There is no specific blueprint to a Lean layout that everyone must follow in order to be considered Lean. However, by following the methodology behind a Lean layout, you can design a layout that works for your facility, under your constraints, that still fits the mold for a Lean layout.

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