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Layout and Flows
In the book Operations Research, (Nigel Slack et al. 192), layout refers to the arrangement of those entities which are used in the movement and transformation of resources (raw materials, information etc.) into value-added products for the customer. Layouts are expected to have the characteristics of being safe, easily accessible and simple in-between navigation for workers and equipment. There are four general layout categories which are fixed-position, functional, cell and product layout.
The main characteristic of the fixed position layout is that transforming resources are brought to the entity which is being transformed, and this entity remains stationary at its place. Functional layout is when similar resources and processes are grouped together and each product or activity has a unique route through the layout. A layout is termed as a cell layout when transforming resources required to perform a small part of the entire job are grouped together in a cell, and a product/service has to move through several cells in order to be completed. In a product layout, the transforming resources are arranged in an unchanging and consistent manner and the product flows uniformly along the resources. Mixed layouts can also be used to combine the benefits of the individual layouts.
Operations adopt a layout which is most suitable in terms of product volume and variety. Fixed and variable costs of the respective layouts are also a very important factor while deciding which layout to implement. Servicescape is a term given to the ‘feel’ of a layout, another important factor in the choice of layout (Nigel Slack et al. 202). After the decision on the layout type, a detailed analysis of the design and product flow is carried out. Some key objectives are line-balancing and minimal flow time.
Slack, N., Brandon-Stairs, A., Johnson, R. Operations Research. 8th ed., Pearson, 2016, pp. 191-216.