Rooms offer protection by isolating them from disturbing or harmful environmental influences. They also assume the task of concentrating various functions in a defined location and making them usable. This could be an abstract definition of the term “rooms”. It is clear that rooms are an important part of every factory planning process. This, in turn, depends on dynamic factors or variables such as market dynamics, technological developments, legal requirements and, not least, the changing needs of employees.
The main objective of this planning is to ensure a technically flawless and economically efficient operation of the production process under optimal working conditions for people working in the factory under changing conditions and sub-targets. In summary, this planning has four main objectives: to ensure a favourable, i.e. smooth, trouble-free and flexible production and logistics flow, the realisation of ergonomically favourable, low-fatigue, safe and motivating working conditions, an optimal surface area and space utilisation and the flexibility of buildings, plants and facilities.
Everything in flow
Anyone who imagines a factory as something static errs. The modern factory includes highly efficient production and assembly facilities that are highly complex and subject to constant optimisation and restructuring. Experts assume that factories will be completely reorganised on average every one and a half years. Only in this way can competitiveness and profitability be maintained.
Modern factory planning sets the course here and ensures the necessary flexibility. In doing so, it avoids rigid or invariant structures or those which can only be changed with considerable effort and disruptive potential. This is evidenced by a factory layout that can be adapted to all necessary changes, such as the deployment of new machines or redesigning of production lines and reducing downtimes caused by changes in production. Thus, the routes for handling vehicles and people are calculated just as the intermediate storage for tools and materials is. Both adapt exactly to required changes.
The goal of factory planning, which is now mostly oriented towards the “lean management” paradigm, demands that the waste of time and other resources be excluded or minimised as far as possible. Using sophisticated MTM (MethodsTimeMeasurement) analyses, work processes are recorded to the second, scheduling and specification times are set and, if necessary, varied.
A continuous improvement process (CIP), which ideally also involves the affected employees, helps to identify further potential for improvement, to reduce redundancies and to recognise and eliminate bottlenecks – also with foresight.
The principles of lean management and lean production are not undisputed. However, the goal of organising work processes as efficiently as possible will also be useful where custom production is performed and work processes may be correspondingly less condensed.
Efficiency from the computer
The modern factory plan is now mostly computer-based. Long before the first employee enters the building, his/her colleagues in the virtual factory have already done their work. All conceivable layout variants of storage, machines, plant systems and rooms are played through until an optimum oriented on undisturbed flow results.
Sophisticated 2D and 3D software allows millimeter-accurate planning of the future factory and, in addition, the unlimited combination and variation of its elements in two or three dimensions, including the consideration of safety standards, operating media connections or edge interference. Manufacturers of machines, plants and room systems provide the data required for this purpose. All so that nothing is left to chance.
The human factor
No matter how rationally and efficiently production processes can be organised – they must always take the needs of the staff performing or supervising them into account. These are partially already addressed by workplace regulations and the like. However, other aspects such as well-being factors or motivators should also be acknowledged, even if such psychological aspects are not always easily and unambiguously quantifiable.
Advanced factory planning, which always has the whole in view, will therefore include both the ergonomic design of the workplaces themselves and the associated ecosystem with opportunities for rest and retreat, and be seeking out positive incentives such as an appealing design and/or colour scheme, for example.
In modern factories, spaces are not an end in themselves, but important components of a functionally arranged whole. Prefabricated modular or mobile room systems also provide the required flexibility by being custom dimensioned and equipped and can be made quickly available. Another requirement relates to the ease of implementation using forklifts or overhead cranes, whereby costly dismantling and reassembly and their inherent disruptive effects are largely eliminated.
The application possibilities of using such room systems are almost unlimited, ranging from recreation and meeting rooms, sanitary facilities and control stations to flexible housings for machines and plants or for the protection of damageable or particularly valuable materials or tools. They are of high quality and maintain their value over many years, thus contributing to flexible organisation without significant wear and tear.
Manufacturer CAD and ERP software as well as suitable interfaces are available for application planning, with which 3D visualisation is also readily possible.