Integral Logistics Management — Operations Management and Supply Chain Management Within and Across Companies

4.4.3b Features in Reference to Production Resources: Facility Layout, Flexible Capability, Flexible Workforce, and Flexible Capacity

Intended learning outcomes: Present important features and their possible values in reference to production resources. Describe fixed-position manufacturing, job shop production, as well as single-item-oriented, high-volume and continuous line production. Differentiate flexible capability (of the production equipment), flexible workforce, and flexible capacity.

Continuation from previous subsection (4.4.3)

The facility layout describes the physical organization of the production infrastructure (the spatial arrangement and grouping of production equipment in work centers), the degree of the division of labor among workers, and the course that orders take through the work centers.

The following values of this feature are generally distinguished as:

  • Fixed-position layout for fixed-position manufacturing, (fixed-)site production, project manufacturing, or island production: Here one work center carries out all operations to produce a product. All persons involved work here. All the production equipment is found at this work center or supplied to it. From the outside, the sum of all operations has the appearance of one gross operation. Workers exercise ex­ten­sive autonomous control at the construction site. Typical exam­p­les include plant and facility construction, shipbuilding, large aircraft, very specific car production, automobile repair ser­vice, service at tables in a restaurant, and operations in a hospital. Examples for island production include the pilot tests[note 402] and specific product families, in particular with group technology.[note 403]
  • Process layout, also called job shop layout or functional layout, for job shop production, or simply job shop: Similar production equipment is grouped together spatially at one work center. Only one operation is carried out at the work center, usually by one person (division of labor). The product moves from shop to shop in a variable, undirected sequence; that is, according to the particu­lar process plan. The process plan lists all individual operations to be carried out. Certain persons are responsible for control. Typical examples include the production of appliances, electrical devices and electronics, furniture, pharmaceuticals, radiology and specific analysis in a hospital, and traditional forms of education.[note 404]
  • Product layout for single-item-oriented line production: Here, the product moves through all work centers, which are ordered along the process, meaning the sequence of operations to produce the product. Depending on the product, individual work centers or operations may be omitted. Generally, the line processes several variants of a product family in rather small batches, or a large variety of variants in single items (lot size one, or batch size one), often with high value-added for each unit. The quantity produced by the line is determined by the actual demand. The fewer the number of variants produced, the more that production scheduling and control can be based on production rates.[note 405] Setup times between batches, if required, are very short. All the required production equipment is found along the line. Ideally, workers are capable of executing neighboring operations in the process, whereby they move along the line.[note 406] To the outside, the sum of all these operations looks like one rough-cut operation. If workers are organized in group production, the group itself exercises control to a large degree within the group. Sometimes, the offices for planning & control as well as those for product and process design can be found close to the line, too. Typical examples include the assembly of automobiles, catamarans, motors and axles, machines, personal computers, and — most recently — aircraft (the Boeing 717-200, for example). Other examples are a modern cafeteria line or office administration.[note 407]
  • Product layout for high-volume line production: Here we find the same arrangement as in single-item-oriented line production. However, the opera­tions are generally more detailed. Whole sequences of operations are carried out in direct succession. At times, the course of the process is rhythmic, meaning that the course follows a strict time schedule. The work centers form a chain or a network with fixed, specifically designed facilities, sometimes linked by conveyors or pipes. Generally, the production line produces only a few different products, whenever possible in large batches of discrete units or nondiscrete items (for example, liquids). That is, the line produces with long runs, but the material flow is discontinuous. Setup times between batches are typically very high, because of cleaning or major adjustments of the production equipment, for example. The facility is built in order to obtain very low unit costs. Typical examples include the production of food, general chemicals, and transportation.
  • Product layout for continuous production or continuous flow production is an extreme form of line production, namely, a production system without lots, i.e. where material flow is continuous during the production process (cf. [APIC16]). The process is halted only if required by the transportation infrastructure or if resources are un­avai­lable. The production line generally processes a commodity such as sugar, petroleum, and other fluids, powders, and basic materials.

The latter three kinds of facility layout have a common spatial arrangement:

A line is a specific physical space for the manufacture of a product that in a flow shop layout is represented by a straight line. In actuality, this may be a series of pieces of equipment connected by piping or conveyor systems ([APIC16]).

The work centers are arranged along the process, that is, according to the sequence of operations required to produce a product or a product family. A line in the manufacturing environment is often called assembly line (particularly in the case of single-item-oriented line production) or production line (particularly in the case of high-volume line production).[note 408] In practice, a line can take any form or configuration, such as straight, U-shaped, or L-shaped (see Section 6.2.2).

From the term line, used to describe this particular spatial arrangement, stems the term line production. For high-volume line production or continuous production, the terms flow shop or flow manufacturing are sometimes used synonymously.

The facility layout can be dependent on the structure level. For example, facility layout may differ for assembling and parts production. In addition, a subcategory here is the degree of structuring of the process plan. This degree of structuring tells us the number of operations divided up in the process plan for one structure level. Site production and single-item-oriented line production generally have a low degree of structuring, as the operations defined are considerably less detailed.

Flexible capability is, according [ASCM22], the ability of machinery to be readily adapted to processing different components on an ongoing basis.

Flexible workforce is, according [ASCM22], a workforce whose members are cross-trained and whose work rules permit assignment of individual workers to different tasks.

These two features set a company’s possible range regarding the target area of flexibility. If employees have broad qualifications and the production equipment can be widely used, there will be great flexibility in the use of resources. This is also the necessary prerequisite for a wide product range and thus for flexibility in achieving customer benefit.

The training of flexible workforce deserves special attention (job enlarge­ment is also often used). First, a broad qualification of the workforce can normally be achieved to a far greater degree than the width of use of the production infrastructure. Second, in contrast to the production equipment, employees do not simply represent a production factor, for they are them­selves stakeholders.

According [ASCM22], flexible capacity is the ability to operate production equipment at different production rates by varying staffing levels and operating hours or starting and stopping at will.

Temporal flexibility of capacity along the time axis is a significant factor in the target areas of delivery and cost. As follows, it even becomes a crucial feature when choosing planning & control methods, particularly in capacity.

In general, people are far more flexible in using their effort along the time axis than machines. In fact, flexible capacity of production equipment can only be reached by means of maintaining over­capacity. People, however, are to a certain degree able to adapt their efforts to the current load.

Flexible capacity of the workforce is the ability of the workforce to work at different times (days or hours) and in varying length of time.

Moreover, if flexible workforce qualifies for processes outside their “home” work center, flexible capacity can be increased. For example, if workers can be moved from one work center to another, this can increase flexible capacity of the workforce even at both work centers. Depending on load in the areas, the employees can be deployed flexibly.

Quiz on Chapter 4.4.3. : not yet available

Five Features in Reference to Logistics and Production Resources[kml_flashembed movie="" height="75%" width="100%" /]

Course section 4.4: Subsections and their intended learning outcomes