How Do I Choose the Best Production Line Layout?

Amy Rodriguez

Choosing the best production line layout requires you to consider the workers' overall speed, product design, and employee morale. An efficient layout also requires proper spacing between work areas. You should also examine the relationship between workers and automated machines; both can be used together to produce an efficient work area.

Each worker's speed must be factored into laying out a production line.
Each worker's speed must be factored into laying out a production line.

Proper production line layout depends greatly on worker speed. Each person will work at a different pace which can hinder overall efficiency. In response, some layout designers have chosen to strategically place slower workers at the beginning and end of the assembly line; this policy allows faster workers in the middle to make up the lost time.

Some companies hire outside consultants to help them choose the most productive line layout.
Some companies hire outside consultants to help them choose the most productive line layout.

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Alternatively, production line layout can be designed to fix any bottlenecks in the assembly process. Line managers may place extra workers in one strategic area of the assembly process to expedite any slow or bottleneck problems. For example, aligning a laser diode in an instrument requires more assembly time than simply screwing a housing together. As a result, more employees work in the alignment area to move more product out to keep profits high.

Product design is another key factor in a successful production line layout. Simple products, such as scissors, can be rapidly mass produced with automated machines; line layout should have many connected conveyor belts in-between production machines. In contrast, a complicated product, such as a measuring instrument, must have a more relaxed production line. Each individual part of the instrument must be carefully set by hand, rather than mass produced with a machine.

Employees within the production line layout must be properly motivated to keep a steady pace for factory efficiency. Most experts agree that employees work more effectively if they are allowed to work at their own pace; layouts that force a worker out of his or her personal rhythm can cause a slowdown, such as using conveyor belts. Layout can involve separate stations that allow the worker to move a group of finished products, such as in a basket, once they have been assembled or aligned.

Spacing between assembly areas must be considered for the best production line layout. Workers should not need to travel far between work stations; excessive walking distances lowers product assembly efficiency. Line managers must strategically place sensitive assembly areas, like printed circuit board building, away from other assembly areas that may cause vibration or dust, such as sanding an outside housing for the board. Spacing should encourage productivity while keeping a comfortable environment for the employees.

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