- Published: October 31, 2021
- Updated: October 31, 2021
- University / College: Cranfield University
- Language: English
- Downloads: 24
A statement about layout is given as:” Layout has numerous strategic implications because it establishes an organization’s competitive priorities in regard to capacity, processes, flexibility and cost, as well as quality of work life customer contact and image.”A good facility layout design is the key to an efficient production environment. However, many engineers only focus on equipment or material flow, and underestimate other factors that should also be considered. In fact, people, workstations, parts bins and equipment should also be arranged to optimize the flow, eliminate waste and optimize productivity. Below I will use the Toyota automobile assembly plant to elaborate the statement.Since Toyota is the developer of the concept “lean manufacturing”, I will use some of the lean concepts to explain the strategies implicated by Toyota. Lean manufacturing is actually a philosophy that relentless attacks waste of all forms so that the plant can achieve highest product quality that it can be. Waste (“Muda” in lean concept) can be in many forms. Products with defect are a kind of waste; waiting time is a kind of waste; overproduction, excess procession and unused workers are also regarded as wastes.It is very true that a layout has many strategic implications to be considered. For instance, a layout would have different characteristics in the face of uncertain demand and certain demand. A high-volume line and a low-volume line will look different. A line layout in a high wage country will be different than one in a lower wage country. Toyota actually puts many factors into consideration when designing an assembly plant, such as product type, country and so forth. Due to the just-in-time delivery, Toyota has introduced a very successful manufacturing concept “Lean Manufacturing”, and has changed the assembly lines dramatically in terms of parts sequencing and other processes.Among all of the aspects, I would say that the assembly plant Toyota emphasizes “process flow” more than any other aspects. It is consistent with the lean concept because any excess or unnecessary flows are waste that not only increases the manufacturing cost but also lengthens the manufacturing time needed for production. Toyota has introduced many ways that fit their facility layout to simplify their manufacturing process. For instance, some of the parts are needed to be transferred to the next step by tracks after being assembled. To simplify the flow, Toyota integrates the two steps together and let workers assemble on the tracks. Of course such a strategic implication is difficult to imitate since many factors are taken in consideration, like how to transfer the workers back to the starting point of the track after transferred, and so forth.For common and traditional operations, plant layout focuses on process-based activities as the core work organisation unit for mass production. Batch-work is done to optimize the economics of scale by department. It is however, not the same case for Toyota. For the just-in-time (JIT) strategy implemented by Toyota, customers want products on-time, with short lead-times and first-time quality, so batch producing and process-based activities are counterproductive to these goals. For Toyota, it is important that its lean layout design is designed to support short and simple flows across facilities, from fabrication to final assembly, so as to reduce the lead time.Traditional plant layouts follow a strict process flow. Work centres tend to be grouped into departments, and are responsible for a certain process, with same machines. Then, materials are moved between processes in erratic flows, with long lead times and high levels of work-in-process inventory. Such layout requires 30 to 50% more physical space than a lean layout for inventory storage, material handling routes and equipment.With a lean layout, work centers tend to be organised by groups of products that share common process routings. This type of layout enables smaller batch sizes. It requires less work-in-process (WIP) inventory, less material handling due to shorter travel distances, and less physical space.One particular challenge is one in which there are hundreds of products with little commonality in process routings. Lean principles can be applied only if sufficient planning is taken to figure out how to group the products into the appropriate families, when designing the process flow. It is the responsibility of industrial engineers to decide which families can be flowed, which families must use a combination of batch and flow, and which must be run in a traditional way. In addition, cells may have to be created to allow customerization, variable products and multidirectional flow. It is challenging to sort out a variety of products into compatible families for workcells in many cases.Besides of emphasizing process flow, flexibility is another important issue that the lean layout of Toyota focuses on, As continuous improvement occurs (The “Kaizen” concept in Lean ), it is necessary for the plant to rearrange the equipment from time to time, so as to achieve new standard. To facilitate this, casters are installed to the equipment for flexible movements.TransFigure (1)The above picture shows a workstation in Toyota plant. The equipment with casters is movable such that the workstation is easy to be assembled or disassembled. Such a high flexibility allows the plant to implement “Kaizen” concept from time to time, also when in some occasion, the workers can easily change their workstation into another form and work on the other parts that are lacking behind and need more manpower.To promote a good process flow, it is not enough to just have a physical layout of operations. Industrial engineers must strike a balance between different processes. For instance, one process may go faster than another. It is a typical way for engineers to slow down the faster process to achieve a balanced task time and demand rate. The importance of balance is always overlooked by traditional managers, who always want things to be completed as fast as possible. When in operation, the importance of balance is significant because of “capacity”.Imagine there are 2 process parts, namely A and B, in which A is faster and B is slower. Material flows from A to B. in real operation, such an imbalance would lead to too much input to B, and too little output from B. in other words, the capacity of B is not high enough to handle too many materials flowed from A. The low capacity is not a good sign for the plant because for one thing, in-process inventory is accumulated after process A, and it is contradictive to the concept of lean manufacturing. For another, process A is fast because of more machines or more manpower, which are regarded as redundant resources because the extra material handled in A will not speed up the overall material flow.Paint lines in Toyota plant are a good example of expensive equipment that is shared by many product lines. Since the equipment is expensive and occupies a large space, it is difficult for Toyota to invest more paint system to serve the product lines. In this case, due to the lack of capacity of the paint system, flow will often stop as parts converge from different product lines. To achieve continuous flow, parts of painting, washing and curing stations are designed to be integrated into a single system.Cost is the utmost important dimension for running a business. Cost is a dependent variable, and is the integration of capacity, process flow, flexibility and so forth. Therefore to lower the cost, the only way is to optimize the other aspects.Again, the paint system of Toyota is used to illustrate the point. The challenge of paint system can simply be overcome by purchasing equipment dedicated to each product line, so to achieve the aim of effective process flow. It is possible, yet, cost prohibitive. Therefore it is the responsibility of industrial engineers to solve it in a cost-effective way, for example, to integrate the systems, as mentioned in the above.To illustrate the importance of quality of work life, I would like to quote a statement that inspires many engineers to put more focus on ways or accessories that aid assemblers for their tasks.”If assemblers don’t have the necessary tools to do their jobs productively, all the planning with respect to workstation layout and equipment are wasted” argues David Verrill, the applications support manager at IAC Industries Inc. “The assembler can always tell you what can make it easier for him to do his job.”It is a good idea that when designing the overall layout plan, engineers should take the opinions of assemblers into consideration, regarding the workstations and equipment. It is because the assemblers are so familiar with the works in the workstations and they can always tell what they actually need.It has been taught in the course human factor engineering, that the quality of work life has a distinct impact on the quality and efficiency of worker’s task. Ergonomic is a complicated yet important study on how to facilitate the workers when doing tasks, so to achieve the highest efficiency. For instance, is the lighting sufficient for workers to perform the tasks? Is break arranged for workers from time to time so that they are not working in a tiring mode? Is the equipment and accessories reachable so that the workers do not need to waste extra time to get them? All of these factors should be taken into consideration to enhance the quality of work life. After all, the quality of work life affects the sense of belongings of workers towards the company. With a good sense of belongings, the workers will perform tasks with their greatest effort; whereas with a bad sense of belongings, the workers may leave the company, and it is a loss for the company because it needs extra resources to train new workers.Lean manufacturing is customer-focused and everything is driven by customer demand, so it is essential to look at the demand profiles of the products that the company is offering. Some engineers suggest that by looking at similarities in processing routes, it is possible to identify the best candidates to start a lean initiative. It is important to determine the layout of equipment and arrange workstations so to achieve optimum flow.To understand what the customer values, how does the customer order would be helpful when laying out an assembly line. Assuming that a company has 3 products line and the company does not understand the customer demand much because of lack of interaction, the company will simply divide its resources into 3 equal proportions and invest on the 3 products line equally. It is however not the same case in real situation, because the company will put more proportion on those product lines that are forecasted to have higher customer demand. In the Toyota plant there is a list of product lines, some of them are much more popular, namely Corolla and Prius, while some products like Mark X and iQ are having much less demand. So when designing the layout line for assembly lines, it is an economic and effective way to shift the focus of the design to those high demand product lines, rather than focus on those low demand product lines.Besides of the aspects mentioned in the statement, like processes, capacity, flexibility and so forth, from the automobile assembly plant Toyota, we can actually observe some other dimensions that they put into considerations. One of the key features observed in the lean plant layout is that a material handler is responsible to help the materials to flow consistently, so that waiting time is reduced, which is regarded as a kind of waste in manufacturing.Another key feature of the Toyota lean plant is the cleanliness of the plant. In a lean environment, there is very little room for waste and if there is waste, it becomes visible. To avoid inventory from building up, also to reduce unnecessary motion and processing, the strategic implications of Toyota plant is to minimize the space between machines. In addition, problems like injury and slipping are avoided.The cleanliness does not only facilitate the manufacturing process, it also establishes the image of an automobile assembly plant. Imagine that two assembly plants are of the same efficiency, one is messy while another one is clean and tidy, the latter one will surely have a better image to stakeholders. With a better image, customers are more willing to buy the products, investors are more willing to make their investments, and the employees will have a stronger sense of belongings.To conclude, we can see that the lean concept introduced by Toyota is very effective in optimizing the flow, and the elements of lean concept can actually be interpreted as capacity, process, flexibility, cost, quality of work life, customer contact and image. In my opinion, the automobile assembly plant Toyota emphasizes the process aspect the most, while emphasizes the image the least. After all, all the elements are important and the strategic implications of Toyota should be learnt by industrial engineers so to design better layouts.
(ii) An amusement park in Hong Kong—Ocean Park
Facility layout design is everywhere. It can be found in McDonalds restaurant, it can be found in laboratory and hospitals. Here I would like to illustrate the facility layout of Ocean Park, the most popular amusement park in Hong Kong since 1977.Ocean Park Hong Kong, is a marine mammal park, animal theme park, oceanarium and amusement park, situated in the Southern District of Hong Kong. Ocean Park has now grown to more than 35 attractions. The park has won some international awards like The World’s 7th Most Popular Amusement Park and thirty-third Most Visited Tourist Attractions (MVTA) in the World by Forbes. Every year Ocean Park attracts many foreigners, mainlanders and local citizens to visit, and it claims that it received 6.95 million visitors in 2011. How does facility layout design contribute to such a success and popular amusement park?In an assembly plant, facility layout is a concept of optimizing material flow activities so that highest productivity is achieved. For the Toyota case that had been reviewed above, they establish strategic implications in regard to capacity, processes, flexibility, cost, quality of life, customer contact and image. Are the elements of strategic implications same as those of a facility plant? In fact they are of very high similarity, since both of them are aiming at material (customer) handling through processing. The main reason that differentiate the two cases is that, for an amusement park, it does not only aim at effective and efficient customer handling and flow, but also emphasize a lot on the safety of customers, and also the satisfaction of customers, so that a good image of the park is built to the customers and they are likely to visit the park again in the future.In my opinion, the layout of an amusement park should establish the park’s competitive priorities in regard to capacity control, processes control, safety customer satisfaction, nearby facilities and image. As required, in the discussion I will focus on one major activity, and I choose to elaborate my points by using the Mine Train in Adventure Land as an example, since the layout design of it is impressive. The picture below shows the Adventure Land in Ocean Park.Figure (A)For an attraction in amusement park, the design layout does not contribute to enhance the capacity of it, as it depends on the turnover of the mine train only. It is however, very important for the layout design to contribute to capacity control. The layout is said to be successful if it organizes the queue well and allows people to line up systematically. It is even more successful for the layout to effectively notify the visitors how long do they need to queue, so that the people can decide whether to queue or not, and they are less likely to complain about the long awaiting time, since they are notified when they entered the queue.Figure (B)In Ocean Park we can always see this kind of design for queuing. The width of each corridor can just fit a single person, so to assure that no one can walk through for cutting the line or any other reasons. As a result the line goes smoothly and in sequence. Another major characteristic of this design is that, for the same amount of people lining up, the new entrants will perceive the queue is longer if the queue is a straight line, and they will perceive a shorter queue if the queue is arranged as shown. In fact we can see from the top view that, if the fences are removed, the design is actually packing a group of people within a small area, and at the same time maintain the sequence of the line. Flexibility is given up in this design. Imagine if a visitor in line wants to quit the line, it is much difficult for him to do it in the design then lining up in a straight line.At the entrance of the queue, there is a notice board set up which shows the current estimation of how long does it takes for lining up. It is a very good capacity control design because people all know the time they have to wait before queuing, so people are less likely to quit the queue, and the line will run more smoothly. But there are two obstacles encountered when implementing this strategy. First thing is that estimation is not always true, it depends on the experience of the control station worker. Second is that the estimation may not be very up- to- date, because it is not possible to make an estimation for every visitor. An estimation is made for a particular time interval instead. So far the estimation system is run manually. It would be greatly improved in terms of accuracy and user-friendliness if the system can be run automatically by program, which is possible, yet costly.Process control is the most important aspect of strategic implications, it does not only smoothen the flow of people, but also ensure the safety of people. In my opinion, the safety concern is hooked with the process control. Missing a single step of the process would be very dangerous to the visitors and would be a disaster. To make sure a high quality of process control is achieved, the control station staff needs to follow the duty rule very strictly. In general, their duty can be split as: 1. Let people in the queue to get in and choose their desirable seat, which is denoted as A to G in figure (A). The head and the end (A or G) are more exciting while the middle ones are more comfortable.2. Press the button of the gates and release people from A to G and get on to the train. Make sure the train is arrived before this step, because there is a wide gap which would be very dangerous to people if it is not filled by the train.3. Visitors are required to pull down the safety handrail themselves. It is a very reliable safety mechanical handrail that holds people against gravity. It is a very crucial part for the worker to check and ensure that the safety handrails are pulled properly and are in function. The train can start to move after this step.4. After the train has landed, assist the people to get off from the train. Make sure every customer has taken their belongings before leave, and make sure all the drawers (for storage) are clean and tidy. Repeat step 1.The regulations of process control in Mine Train are simple and easy, but very important. Control station staffs should be well trained so that they do not only achieve the excellence in daily operation, but also good at handling special cases if there are any.Figure (c)Besides of safety, security control is also very important. It is impossible for visitors to bring along their belongings when playing the rides and roller coaster, therefore when designing the layout, industrial engineers need to consider how to secure the properties of visitors.Figure c shows how the layout of the attraction facilitates the security control. Before people get on the train, they pass through it and put their belongings to the drawer which is located at the other side of the rail. After the train goes on, not even the control station staff can go to the drawer, so it is very safety indeed. After people get off the train and get the belongings back from the drawer, there is only one single way they can leave. It further enhance the security because if someone took the belongings of others, either accidentally or deliberately, it is easier for the staff to immediately hold the group of people from going further, and to prevent the loss of property. This design is well planned because of its simplicity. The mechanism is simple and neat, cheap to run, and most importantly, time-efficient. People put their belongings and get their belongings in a simple and quick way so to facilitate the flow.Visitor’s satisfactions are highly concerned as it does not only affect the future income, it also reflect the quality and the goodwill of the park. In the layout of mine train there are some features that can enhance the satisfactions of visitors. First is the LCD display monitor hanged at the top corner of the queuing area, such that everyone in the queue can see it. The content of the videos are about the upcoming events and functions of the park, which promotes the park in one way, and entertain the visitors in another way since they are bored when awaiting. At the same time the background music keeps playing all day long, which are of some hyper and joyful themes so to fit the theme of the park. Visitors, especially the kids, are entertained by those music.Kodak express service is a very impressive service provided in the attractions of the park, including the mine train. The mine train rail is designed so that a camera is set at nearly the end of the track. It captures the funny looks of the visitors. Photos are sent to the sever immediately and display at the food shop right next to the exit of the mine train. It should be emphasized that the route is designed so that visitors must pass through the food shop before leave, in this way it can attract more people to buy the photos as well as the food. The park can gain higher profit and at the same time provide a higher level of customer service, thus higher visitor’s satisfaction.Nearly facilities determine the crowd and the success of the attraction, it should be well planned before the attraction is opened for people. No one is willing to go for an attraction which is isolated and have no washroom, food shop or other facilities around. The mine train is well planned in this aspect. Except the food shop “Mine Train Hot Dog” nearby, which provides Kodak express service, there is a souvenir shop “Pacific Chandlers” nearby the mine train. For lunch, people may go to “the Middle Kingdom Restaurant”. And of course there is a washroom right next to the exit.To conclude, the layout design of mine train is discussed in terms of capacity control, processes control, safety, customer satisfaction and nearby facilities. The reason the park aims at excellent performance in these aspects is to build a good image of the park, which is the utmost important thing. The facility design layout does contribute to the success of an amusement park so much and should never be overlooked.