Updated: Nov 20
If you produce goods in large volumes, the shop floor space is your most asset. With more manufacturers reaching the limits of their space, the importance of maximizing shop floor space is greater than ever. This space may be the only area of your factory that you have full control over and its importance cannot be understated. So how can you maximize manufacturing shop floor space? Read on to find 8 ways that will help you to make the most out of your shop floor space!
What is Effective Shop Floor Management?
"I believe that management should focus on two particular areas. One is Gemba (shop floor) and the other is customer (not the shareholder)."- Masaaki Imai
A shop floor is an area where assembly or production occurs. This could either be done manually by the workforce or through advanced automated systems. Productivity is key to your business's success, and it's especially important in today's competitive market. Shop floor management is a big part of keeping on top of every order and ensuring that customers get what they need when they need it. It's also crucial for maintaining a positive workplace culture.
Let's take a look at 8 ways small businesses can maximize their manufacturing shop floor space and increase revenues.
1. Redesign Plant Layout
Your lack of floor space may be due to inefficiencies in your plant layout. To find out, evaluate your plant layout.
An effective layout is one that optimizes the space both horizontally and vertically. Backtracking and duplicated movements are inefficient and waste time, materials, and money. Raw materials, work-in-progress, and finished goods should be stacked vertically on top of each other rather than being spread out on the floor. Pallets or equivalents should be used to stack several layers on top of each other.
2. Invest in Workstations
By choosing the right workstation, manufacturers can save significant floor space.
One way to reduce the amount of space a workstation takes up is by using vertical space more effectively. This can sometimes lead to a decrease in the work surface area of up to 30%. Another thing to consider is the amount of space used by the workstation's structural components, such as columns and frames. Try to look for workstations with small, strong structures so that the work surface area isn't affected too much by them.
3. Embrace Lean
If you find yourself having to drag tools from one workstation to another or constantly rearranging them, you may be falling short of the productivity and efficiency that your business needs to succeed.
If you're familiar with these issues, consider adopting a lean manufacturing practice. Lean manufacturing is all about using time and space effectively by reducing the number of time workers spend looking for tools, materials, or information. A factory or facility that adopts a lean-oriented production layout strives to create a continuous flow of workers, materials and information.
4. Go for Vertical Space
Whether you have plenty of room or are working with limited floor space, use overhead storage and workspace to increase capacity without increasing your overhead expenses. Use lift trucks that can navigate narrow aisles and easily pull from high pallet stacks to take advantage of vertical space in the warehouse. Mezzanines are another way to use vertical space efficiently. You can build one above a workspace, automated cell, or storage area and use it for the same functions. By investing in both a VCR (vertical reciprocating conveyor) and a Mezzanine, you’ll be able to see an improvement in the distribution center workflow and safety.
5. Explore New Storage Options
When was the last time you looked at your racking and storage areas? Probably the time when you first installed them, right? If the conditions haven't changed since then, no problem. But if anything has changed in the inventory, examine your racking, shelves, and storage areas for unused space and make use of it!
The right storage also minimizes damage to materials and creates less waste, especially when materials are priced high or in short supply.
6. Reduce Aisle Width
To increase your storage space, reduce the width of your aisles. This will allow you to use more racks or add more aisles. If these aisles are too wide, however, they will reduce the efficiency of your operation. Aisles can occupy a majority of a room or facility - up to 80% in fact. This is why reducing unnecessary aisle space is crucial to freeing up the room so that you can increase your storage capacity with more pallet racks. Narrow aisle racking systems are much more efficient in terms of storage because they enable you to utilize both your floor space and ceiling height to store more products.
7. Improve Material Handling System
A material handling system that you choose for your manufacturing facility helps determine how much floor space you have available. Some systems, like overhead cranes, take up tiny floor space. But other systems, like rail cars, drag chains, and conveyors, can use up a lot of room that could be used for other things. They can also slow traffic down and make it harder to get work done when they're installed in tight spaces.
Automation is a great way to make the best use of your available floor space. It can improve material handling by using conveyors to move items between machines, for example. Automating certain tasks can also reduce the number of employees needed for a particular job - which can come in handy during times of labor shortages. There are many automated solutions for manufacturers out there, so it's important to find the right one that fits your operation. Some options include automated press brake bending cells, automated storage and retrieval systems, smart material handling vehicles, and automated accessories for easy material handling.
Although leveraging technology to increase manufacturing productivity is an extremely important part of staying competitive, optimizing the physical space on your shop floor for the equipment you have will help you get more done with fewer resources, which is something we all have to consider. Not only should you plan for the long term, but with a little foresight, you can also look towards growing your business in the future and be prepared when opportunity strikes. While there are many ways to optimize your shop floor space, these 8 certainly get the basics covered. It will be a good idea to give these a try before investing in costly redesigns or new machines.