Reduce Handling Time with Shop Floor Layout Changes

A few months ago OMEP had the opportunity to work with a local fabrication shop that specialized in sheet metal forming and welding. The shop was a “job shop” with random customer orders coming in one day, and deliveries going out the next. The shop was experiencing significant growth and consequently, ran out of room in their facilities.  An initial visit to the shop provided insight on how they were operating.  Departments were arranged by machine type, batch processing was prominent, little material flow was evident, and pallets of work-in-process inventories littered the floors.

Through the years equipment had been added to each department, whenever capacity demand was required.  Extra space was also added, piece-meal style, without consideration for material flow. The result showed a random, spaghetti pattern of process flow throughout the facilities.

To accommodate his expected doubling of business over the next five years, the owner decided to invest in a new building. OMEP was asked to assist in the expansion project. When we didn’t start laying out the new facility as expected, the owner was initially dismayed. Instead, we began by reviewing the actual shop floor routings.

After lots of detailed evaluation, three distinct patterns of process flow began to emerge. The evaluation showed that over 90 percent of all jobs could be completed through one of three distinct machine groups, or cells. The cells would be comprised of unique equipment, such as lasers, and press brakes, as well as workers, like welders and finishers. This cell structure would allow a custom order to be processed from start to finish, within a single group.The only exception to the cells would be the common operation of powder coating that was required on most contract parts before shipping.

After several discussions with the shop owner regarding batch processing verses lean cell processing, the owner has a new and very different facility layout that will dramatically improve material flow, reduce shop floor clutter and streamline his production capabilities.

The layout incorporates three distinct work cells. Initial work orders are rapidly placed into the appropriate group. Shop personnel are skilled enough to “float” between each of the three cells to ensure a smoothing effect of skilled labor hours.  The net result is greatly reduced material handling time (non-value added work), shorter delivery times for customers and a much less cluttered facility.

All that remains now is to build the new building!