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A challenge many facilities planners face today is finding a way to quickly and effectively evaluate proposed layout
changes and material handling systems so that the material handling costs and distances are minimized. This challenge
was addressed during a three-day, on-site software training session conducted at an appliance manufacturer. The facilities planners were learning the basics on using the Factory FLOW software package, a computer-based, facilities planning tool developed by Cimtechnologies Corp. The training group evaluated a current layout proposal of a console assembly area to see if any improvements could be made.

The Factory FLOW software quantitatively evaluates facility layouts and material handling systems by showing , the material flow paths and costs, both in output text reports and in a graphic overlay of an AutoCAD layout drawing. Factory FLOW evaluates the material flow and material handling costs and distances using the following input information: an Auto CAD layout drawing, part routing data 0.e., part names, from/to locations, and move quantities), and material handling system characteristics (i.e. fixed and variable costs load/unload times, and speeds). The facilities planners had a drawing of the area, and the Indus rial engineers supplied the part routing and material equipment information; therefore data entry and analysis of the current layout took about one-half of a day. Output diagrams and reports showed material handling distances of over 407 million feet per year and material handling costs of just' over 8900,000 per year. The second half of the day was used to come up with alternative layouts by analyzing the output text reports and the material flow lines. On alternative was to rotate a line of 16 plastic presses 90 degrees, so they fed right into the sub assembly area and to rotate the main console assembly lines 90 degrees, so they were closer to the same area.

Since the primary material handling system was an overhead conveyor minimizing the length of the conveyor was a major concern. Factory FLOW was used to evaluate the alternative layout and the output reports showed the material handling costs had been reduced by over $100,000 to $792,265 per year. Also, by decreasing the material travel distance the length of overhead conveyor needed had been reduced from 3,600 feet to just over 700 feet. is also common to find an entire plant arranged according to general product flow (fabrication, sub assembly, and final assembly). coupled with process layout within fabrication and product layout within the assembly department Likewise group technology is frequently found within a department that itself is located according to a plant wide process-oriented layout.

An operation's layout continually changes over time because the internal and external environments are dynamic. A demands change. so can layout. As technology changes, so can layout. In Chapter 3. we discussed a product/process matrix indicating that as products and volumes change, the most efficient layout is also likely to change. Therefore, the decision on a specific layout type may be a temporary one.