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Factory planning as a science

The VDI Guideline 5200 on factory planning maps all the steps that can be considered reasonable and necessary from goal definition to successful project completion according to the current state of science. This makes it an indispensable guide for companies that want and need to optimize the design of new and rebuilt production facilities from the outset. With the RAMI 4.0 model, scientific factory planning goes one step further.

In the introduction to the guideline, published in 2011, the authors express surprise that the scientific basis of factory planning comes “primarily from the 1960s and 1970s.” The new document was therefore long overdue in view of the greatly changed demands on industrial production, such as the ever-increasing number of markets to be served and the fast-moving nature of technologies and products. Other drivers of change include rising energy costs, environmental protection aspects and efforts to humanize the world of work.

To this day, scientific factory planning tries to take these complex requirements into account. Its main subjects are building planning, manufacturing plant layout, supply and disposal planning including material flow planning, and the linking of manufacturing plants with each other and with upstream and downstream process stages.

“Never start with a machine layout and building design when building a new factory or modifying an existing one, and resist the pressure to quote costs early. Instead, retreat with management to a forest hotel and spend a whole day thinking about what you want to achieve with the project from a strategic perspective. The subsequent steps will then inevitably arise (…).” from: Handbuch Fabrikplanung, Foreword to the 2nd edition, Hanser Verlag December 2014.

Production process in the center

In line with the scientific approach, factories are understood as an overall system centered on the production process. All other processes and functions are related to it. The main objectives therefore include an efficient production and manufacturing flow that is organized as favorably as possible; other main objectives are working conditions that are suitable for people, the optimum utilization of space and room, and a high degree of flexibility of buildings, plant and equipment.

Structured planning model

In order to achieve these goals, “VDI 5200” designs a structured planning model divided into eight phases: Phase 1 describes the procedure for goal determination. Here, the company and project goals are determined, evaluation criteria are set and work packages are defined. Phase 2 serves to determine the basis, i.e. the procurement and evaluation of necessary information. Concept planning is done in the 3rd phase.

It is important to note here the difference between ideal planning and real planning – ideal planning should be based on existing work plans and should be done without regard to perceived or actual feasibility. In this way, it can provide important impulses and ideas for the subsequent real planning.

The 4th phase deals with detailed planning. Permit applications and performance specifications are prepared here. Phases 5 and 6 describe the preparation and monitoring of project implementation, the 7. and 8. phase the supervision of the start-up and ramp-up of the new production facility as well as the final evaluation of the project.

During planning, all phases are run through one after the other and sometimes repeatedly. Each phase ends with a milestone at which its results must be available. In parallel, VDI 5200 describes the accompanying organizational activities of project management, as well as the services of architects according to HOAI Art. 15.

There are numerous practical software solutions for guideline-compliant factory planning that can be used to plan virtually and in 3D. On the screen, it is thus possible to quickly see the effects of layout changes on logistical loads and much more.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0, this term is associated with the reinvention of the factory. In the completely digitized manufacturing plant, the previously function-determined organization is to be replaced by a process-oriented one in which people and machines communicate with each other and with the products to be manufactured. Promises include reducing inventory, manufacturing and logistics costs by up to 40 percent and maintenance costs by up to 30 percent.

For factory planning, the concept means, among other things, that the VDI planning guideline must be supplemented. To this end, the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI ) says it has achieved initial successes in standardizing Industrie 4.0: “the first representation of a reference architecture for Industrie 4.0 (RAMI 4.0) and the Industrie 4.0 component that concretely describes an Industrie 4.0-capable production object have been developed. In the process, the reference architecture model allows step-by-step migration from today’s to the Industrie 4.0 world.”

VDI Guideline 5200 is not rendered obsolete by the new model. Rather, it will be expanded and thus serve as a basis for systematic planning in the future as well.