Fit for the future

Louise Davis

Jonathan Wilkins discusses how factory design can impact operational efficiency

One of the most famous buildings in the New York skyline, The Empire State Building, underwent a $550m environmental upgrade in 2011.

Improving insulation, implementing energy saving technologies and refurbishing 6,500 windows cut the building’s annual energy usage by a substantial $4.4m.

When renovating or designing any facility, efficiency can be improved by careful design and planning.

The design and layout of a facility has a powerful impact on manufacturing operations. An efficient layout can facilitate an increased flow of work, information and material around the site. If a factory is not designed with efficiency in mind, it can limit production, slow processes and impact overall profitability.


When designing or renovating a production facility, space, production, safety and convenience are all of the utmost importance.

For the majority of plant managers, it is imperative that the factory design allows for the facility to have efficient production and storage capabilities, in order to maximise productivity. There are a number of ways that a facility can be designed to achieve this goal.


Software tools such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), a 3D modelling software for building design, can be used to understand how the design or construction of a facility will impact how it operates and minimise design errors.

It can also be used to analyse how complex variables work together, including water, airflow and ventilation.

The building as a whole can be optimised during the design stage, but the production line should also be optimised for efficiency. In an efficient production line, there is a smooth process flow from raw material to finished product, to avoid paperwork or parts being misplaced.

This can be done using design and planning software applications such as AutoCAD, which allows the designer to view and analyse a digital factory model.


When planning movement around a factory it is important to optimise the space so that it fits production needs, whilst making the best use of the available area.

This can be achieved by reorganising the warehouse or even by constructing a mezzanine floor above the production facility.

Though it is important to consider the best layout of machines and equipment, in factories where humans work alongside robots, the space should be designed with people in mind.

The human touch

Improving the working environment for staff can increase productivity. A facility that is light, well ventilated and temperature regulated will encourage worker productivity and increase staff satisfaction.

Once the facility is up and running, the plant manager can take advantage of smart factory technology, using real time information to make intelligent decisions.

Jonathan Wilkins is marketing director at obsolete equipment supplier  

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