Designing Process Layouts: Steps & Tools

Instructor: Brianna Whiting

Brianna has a masters of education in educational leadership, a DBA business management, and a BS in animal science.

Being efficient is important for production. In this lesson we will learn one way a company can increase its production based solely on how workstations are arranged.

Process Layout in Action

Meet Tammy! Tammy has decided to take her child to the school carnival. Upon arrival, her daughter immediately notices a few booths in the back corner where there are numerous crafts to do. Knowing how much her daughter loves crafts, Tammy walks with her daughter over to the craft booths. While her daughter is finishing up her last craft, Tammy decides to take a look around to see what other opportunities are available at the carnival. She notices another corner that has games, a corner that has rides, and right in the middle is a dance floor where many different dance competitions are taking place. Instantly, Tammy is delighted at how nicely everything is laid out. Everything is grouped according to what is being performed. This type of layout is not only used for school carnivals, but is an essential tool for many companies. Come along as we learn about process layout.

Process Layout Defined

Before we go much further, let's first define what exactly process layout is. Process layout is a design idea that groups workstations according to what is being performed. It has been found that production is higher when products move through production according to the process being completed. In other words, when a company places machines together that all work towards completing one process, the product moves through production much quicker than when machines that are located all over the production floor. For example, if a company makes toys, it might have all of the machines that make the pieces together, all of the machines that assemble the toys together, and all the machines that package the toys together. By doing so, the products, in this case, the toys, move from one workstation to the next in a quick manner as each task is completed.

As for the school carnival, it did not take Tammy long to see that each booth was laid out according to the process being performed. Games were together, rides were together, and even the food and drink booths were place with one another.

Steps in Process Layout

So how does a company design a process layout? What is important to consider? In this section, we will look at two methods that can be helpful in designing process layout.

1. Block diagramming- The first step in block diagramming is collecting data on how products currently and futuristically move through production. Next is understanding composite movement, which is how products move from one department to the next. Finally, a trial layout is presented graphically, so that a company can see how products will move through production. When graphing the layout, each department is represented by a block. The object is to place each department, or block, as close to the next block in sequences so that nonadjacent loads are minimized or eliminated altogether. Nonadjacent loads is the term used to describe blocks that are separated further away than the next block. If we apply this to the school carnival, a trial layout might show the rides closest to the bathrooms as the rides may make some of the children sick. However, a trial layout might also expose that the drink booths were on the other side of the room from the dance floor, which presents an nonadjacent load as children often get thirsty after a heavy dose of movement.

2. Relationship Diagramming- Using a code known as Muther's grid, departments are assigned one of six letters, A, E, I, O, U, and X according to the preference of management. The letters stand for: A=absolutely necessary, E=especially important, I=important, O=okay, U=unimportant, X=undesirable. For example, it might be absolutely necessary to place the drink booths closest to the kitchen. That way, when children such as Tammy's daughter need a quick drink, the staff can easily grab supplies from the kitchen when necessary. On the other hand, it might be undesirable to have the game booths next to the craft booths, as bean bags being thrown during the bean bag toss might accidentally fly through the air and hit a craft that a child is working on.

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