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NEXT GENERATION FACTORY LAYOUTS: RESEARCH CHALLENGES AND

RECENT PROGRESS

Saifallah Benjafaar
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 554555

Sunderesh S. Heragu
Department of Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,
Troy, NY 12180

Shahrukh A. Irani
Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210

December, 2000

Abstract

There is an emerging consensus that existing layout configurations do not meet the needs of the
multi-product enterprise and that there is a need for a new generation of factory layouts that are
more flexible, modular, and more easily reconfigurable. In this article, we offer a review of state
of the art in the area of design of factory layouts for dynamic environments. We report on
emerging efforts in both academia and industry in developing alternative layout configurations,
new performance metrics, and solution methods for designing the “next generation” of factory
layouts. In particular, we focus on describing efforts by the Consortium on Next Generation
Factory Layouts (NGFL) to address some of these challenges. The consortium, supported by the
National Science Foundation, involves multiple universities and several manufacturing
companies. The goal of the consortium is to explore alternative layout configurations and
alternative performance metrics for designing flexible and reconfigurable factories.

1. Introduction

There is an emerging consensus that existing layout configurations do not meet the needs of the
multi-product enterprise [4, 13, 37, 42, 58, 59, 61, 79, 82] and that there is a need for a new generation of
factory layouts that are more flexible, modular, and more easily reconfigurable. Flexibility, modularity,
and reconfigurability could save factories the need to redesign their layouts each time their production
requirements change. Relayout can be highly expensive and disruptive, especially when the entire factory
has to be shut down and production stopped. For factories that operate in volatile environments, or
produce a high variety of products, shutting down each time demand changes, or a new product is
introduced, is simply not an option. In fact, plant managers may prefer to live with the inefficiencies of
an existing layout rather than suffer through a costly relayout, which in turn could become quickly
obsolete. In our own work with over two dozen companies in the last five years, ranging from big to
small, we have encountered mounting frustration with the existing layout choices. This is particularly
acute in companies that continuously introduce and offer a wide range of products whose demands are
variable and lifecycles short. For these companies, being able to design a layout that can either retain its
usefulness over a wide range of product mixes and volumes or be easily reconfigured is extremely
valuable. Equally important is designing layouts that can support the need for increased customer
responsiveness in the form of shorter lead times, lower inventories, and higher product customization.
The current choices of layouts, such as product, process, and cellular layouts do not adequately
address the above needs because they tend to be designed for a specific product mix and production
volume, both assumed to last for a sufficiently long period (e.g., 3-5 years) [29]. The design criterion
routinely used in most layout design procedures - a measure of long-term material handling efficiency,
fails to capture the priorities of the flexible factory (e.g., scope is more important than scale,
responsiveness is more important than cost, and reconfigurability is more important than efficiency). As a
result, layout performance tends to deteriorate significantly with fluctuation in either product volumes,
mix, or routings [4, 10, 49, 61, 62, 65]. Using a static measure of material handling efficiency also fails to
capture the impact of layout configuration on operational performance, such as work-in-process
accumulation, queue times at processing departments, and throughput rates. Consequently, layouts that
improve material handling often result in inefficiencies elsewhere in the form of long lead times or large
in-process inventories [9].
Hence, there is a need for a new class of layouts that are more flexible and responsive. There is also a
need for alternative evaluation criteria for layout design that explicitly account for flexibility and
responsiveness. More importantly, there is a need for new design models and solution procedures that
account for uncertainty and variability in design parameters such as product mix, production volumes, and

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product lifecycles. In this paper, we outline the needs and challenges in designing factory layouts in
highly volatile environments. We offer a review of state of the art in this area and report on emerging
efforts in both academia and industry in developing (1) alternative layout configurations, (2) new
performance metrics, and (3) solution methods for designing the “next generation” of factory layouts. In
particular, we focus on describing efforts by the Consortium on Next Generation Factory Layouts to
address some of the challenges of layout design in dynamic environments. The consortium, founded by
the co-authors of this article, is supported by a major grant from the National Science Foundation and
involves multiple universities and several manufacturing companies. The goal of the consortium is to
explore alternative layout configurations and alternative performance metrics for designing flexible
factories. In addition to acquainting readers with results from the initial phase of this effort, we hope to
initiate through this article a broader discussion about the physical organization and layout of factories in
the future.
The paper is organized as follows. In section 2, we review current practice in layout design for
factories with multiple products and highlight the limitations of current design methods. In section 3, we
review literature on layout design that is pertinent to the central theme of this paper. In section 4, we
describe research being carried out under the Consortium for Next Generation Factory Layouts. In
particular, we describe results from four streams of research dealing, respectively, with design of (1)
distributed layouts, (2) modular layouts, (3) reconfigurable layouts, and (4) agile layouts. In section 5, we
report on some emerging trends in industry, in both technology and business practices, that could
significantly affect the way factories are organized in the future. In section 6, we offer concluding
comments.

2. Current Practice

It has been conventionally accepted that, when product variety is high and/or production volumes are
small, a functional layout, where all resources of the same type share the same location, offers the greatest
flexibility - see Figure 1(a). However, a functional layout is notorious for its material handling
inefficiency and scheduling complexity [22, 31, 59, 66, 68, 80]. In turn, this often results in long lead
times, poor resource utilization and limited throughput rates. While grouping resources based on their
functionality allows for some economies of scale and simplicity in workload allocation, it makes the
layout vulnerable to changes in the product mix and/or routings. When they occur, these changes often
result in a costly relayout of the plant and/or an expensive redesign of the material handling system [42,
49, 74, 82].

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11. where the factory is partitioned into cells. 43]. product demands. 4. 13. are assumed to be all known with certainty [29. where design parameters. such as overlapping cells [1. Although cellular factories can be quite effective in simplifying workflow and reducing material handling. A more detailed discussion of the limitations of cellular manufacturing systems can be found in [1. 59. these alternatives remain bounded by the underlying cellular structure. as shown in Figure 1(b). 77]. In fact. Although an improvement. In fact. 56. a total adjacency score or total material handling distance) which does not capture the need for flexibility and reconfigurability in a dynamic environment [9.e. The demand levels are assumed to be stable and their life cycles considered sufficiently long. 39]. for the most part. the relationship between layout 3 . whether for functional or cellular layouts. once a cell is formed. 70. they become inefficient in the presence of significant fluctuations in the demand of existing products or with the frequent introduction of new ones. While such organization may be adequate when part families are clearly identifiable and demand volumes stable. such as product mix. 54. 70]. they can be highly inflexible since they are generally designed with a fixed set of part families in mind. based on a deterministic paradigm.. (a) Functional layout (b) Cellular layout Figure 1 . have been. it is usually dedicated to a single part family with limited allowance for intercell flows.Functional versus cellular layout Existing layout design procedures. 59. and fractal cells [4. The design criterion used in selecting layouts is often a static measure of material handling efficiency (i. and product routings. 77]. each dedicated to a family of products with similar processing requirements [30. 81]. cells with machine sharing [11. 10. These limitations resulted in recent calls for alternative cellular structures. 40. An alternative to the functional organization of job shops is a cellular configuration. 72].

Being a simple graph. and variability in order sizes. facility planners are often engaged in evaluating an existing layout and proposing improvements to it. An alternative could be a Multi-Product Process Chart that captures the unique routing of each product. it limits the facilities planner to the design of mostly a single type of layout – the functional layout. and loading/unloading at the individual work-centers. More importantly. In other words. it ignores important factors such as revenue generated by each product. In turn. they measure only average performance and in doing so cannot guarantee effectiveness under all operating scenarios. frequency of product ordering. other than the functional layout. 78. 29. Clearly. Use of the travel chart as input data: The traditional input data for layout design has been the Travel Chart [73]. the dominant use of facility layout design methods tends to be in the midlife or later life of a facility [38]. making them less effective in factories with high product variety or short lifecycles. The structural properties of layouts that make them more or less flexible are also not well understood. this chart aggregates the routings and production quantities of all the products produced in a facility. Although a volume-based criterion tends to minimize material handling costs by minimizing material travel distances. 67. becomes possible because partitioning the edge list allows duplication of machines in several locations in the facility [37]. Such a chart would be essentially a hypergraph representation of the facility that treats each routing as a hyperedge connecting a sequence of departments in the layout. The phase in the life cycle of a facility when most models and methods are used: In industry. Number of part samples and sampling criteria used to design a layout: A common practice in industry is to use the 80-20 rule (or ABC Analysis) to select one sample of products in designing the entire layout [34]. They also ignore the impact of operational parameters such as setup. Thereby.flexibility and layout performance remains poorly understood and analytical models for its evaluation are still lacking. We list few of these here based on our own experience with several industry cases [37]. batching. 80]. cycle time. 27. This problem is compounded by the use of “production volume” as the criterion in selecting a sample. this has led to difficulty in devising systematic procedures for the design and implementation of flexible layout. it prevents machine duplication analysis. Since production data for the entire life of a 4 . However. and throughput rate. 76. Indeed. Current design criteria also fail to capture the effect of layout on dynamic performance measures such as congestion. However. there is considerable opportunity for application of layout algorithms at the conceptual design phase of planning the layout of a facility. the design of layout configurations. With routing information embedded in the layout. There are also limitations underlying many of the tools and methods used to design and evaluate factory layouts. there exists little consensus as to what makes one layout more flexible than another or as to how layout flexibility should be measured [14. a single sample is rarely an accurate representation for a facility with high product variety or a changing product mix.

Heuristic procedure for the dynamic layout problem can be found in a number of papers including [15]. The model is solved via dynamic 5 . For a more complete review of papers on the dynamic layout problem.layout is not known at the initial design stage. We first provide a review of this literature and then offer a possible classification scheme. [42]. but it is also not too far off from the optimal under all possible scenarios [64]. They formulate a stochastic dynamic layout problem under the assumption that the following are known a priori: (i) material flows between departments for each of several pre-specified planning periods. [50] and [75]. Variations of the basic dynamic layout problem are studied in [7]. routings and production quantities. A model which uses this goal layout as an input and provides intermediate layouts for the intermediate planning periods is developed. and (ii) the probability of transitioning from one flow matrix to another. among others. A limitation of this approach is that the relative positions of departments are fixed over all the planning periods . Suppose the designer is able to estimate multiple production scenarios for a planning period. [62] consider uncertainties explicitly in determining plant layout. 3. Hicks and Cowan [28] incorporated the costs of relocating departments in analyzing a single period layout. we refer the reader to [6]. Heuristic strategies for developing robust layouts for multiple planning periods are presented in [47]. In this section. [8] and [76]. A layout is considered to be robust if it performs ‘well’ under all production scenarios. it is assumed that a goal layout for the last of several pre-specified planning periods can be provided by the designer. Literature Review and Classification The facility layout problem has been formally studied as an academic area of research since the early 1950s. we focus on papers that are pertinent to design of layouts in dynamic environments. Numerous papers on this topic have been surveyed in [6]. This model takes into consideration material handling cost as well as cost of relocating machines from one period to the next. Rosenblatt [63] developed a model and solution procedure for determining an optimal layout for each of several pre-specified future planning periods. Facility layout in an uncertain production environment: The concept of robustness in analyzing single period layouts was introduced in [65]. among others.1 Literature Review Dynamic facility layout: In a 1976 paper. pessimistic and most likely. This layout may not be optimal under any specific scenario. [48] and [54].only the sizes and shapes are allowed to vary. In [57]. there is a need for layout design methods that can work with fuzzy or incomplete data on product mix. [57] and [75]. optimistic. Palekar et al. Improvements to the branch and bound procedure in [63] are provided in a number of other papers including [5]. for example. 3.

Benjaafar also showed that even in the absence of reliable information about product volumes and routings. Like the approach in [57]. their routings. a method for developing multiple period layouts is discussed in [56]. Instead. The flexible layout is based on the notion that layouts neither remain static for multiple production planning periods nor do they change during every period. Distributed Layouts: In order to address the limitations that come from fixed department locations. Montreuil et al. or holographic. while some disaggregation and distribution is desirable. A method for developing “flexible” layouts is presented in [82]. it is computationally intractable in the multiple period case. The layout problem for each block of periods is then solved and results combined to generate a layout plan for multiple production periods. Assuming the flow matrices as well as their probability of occurrence is known for multiple planning periods. a layout may remain static for a block of periods. the block of periods for which a layout is to remain static is first determined [82]. the benefits of disaggregation and distribution are of the diminishing type with most of the benefits achieved with having only few duplicates of each department (see section 4. The question for the designer is not only how to change the layout.only the sizes and shapes are allowed to vary. Duplication would not necessarily mean acquiring additional capacity but could simply be achieved by disaggregating existing departments. which may consist of several identical machines. into smaller ones. several authors have recently proposed that functional departments should be duplicated and strategically distributed throughout the plant floor [13. [58] has suggested a maximally distributed. Drolet [16] illustrated how distributed layouts can be used to form virtual cells that are temporarily dedicated to a particular job order. Reconfigurable layouts: A shortcoming with several of the above approaches is that they assume production data. Assuming that future production scenarios along with their probability of occurrence are known. In fact. Even the papers that associate a probability of occurrence with each production scenario implicitly assume that the production resources (type and 6 . full disaggregation and distribution is rarely justified. 58]. the simple fact of having duplicates placed throughout the plant can significantly improve layout robustness. at the end of which the production has changed so much that a new layout is necessary.1). 16. An algorithm for the single and multiple period dynamic layout problem is presented in [46]. including the products to be produced.programming for small sized problems and using heuristics for larger ones. type and number of each production resource are known for future planning periods. layout where functional departments are fully disaggregated into individual machines which are then placed as far from each other as possible to maximize coverage. Benjaafar [13] has shown that. Although this method considers additional factors such as additional buffer space and layout changeover costs. but also when to do so. a limitation of this method is that the relative positions of departments are fixed over all the planning periods .

it is unlikely that this approach . production volume or commissioning and de-commissioning of resources) are known only slightly ahead of the start of the new production cycle. The first approach assumes that either: (a) the production data for multiple periods is available at the initial design stage itself so that a layout that is robust (and causes minimal materials handling inefficiency overall) over the multiple periods can be identified. Methods belonging to the second develop layouts that are flexible or modular enough so that they can be reconfigured with minimal effort to meet changed production requirements. 62. the changes that are to take place in a production cycle (whether it is change in products. A limitation of this approach is that it requires that production data for multiple periods be available at the initial design stage. such a layout would help us carry out the material handling functions efficiently through the various production periods. where factories are plagued by the unavailability of production data for more than one period at a time. Heragu and Kochhar [31] discuss this idea and argue that advances taking place in materials and mechanical process engineering. Methods belonging to the first category develop layouts that are robust for multiple production periods or scenarios. it is common to see drastic production changes take place very frequently. among others. 61. Papers that take the approach outlined in (a) include [47. duplication of key resources at strategic locations within the plant) can be developed so that once again. for example. 65. Kochhar and Heragu [42] present a genetic algorithm to solve the associated dynamic layout problem. Thus. 42. Papers that take this approach are relatively few and include [13. 16.2. Therefore. It is also common to see old production resources being de-commissioned and new ones being deployed rather regularly.quantity) remain fixed. This requirement is increasingly difficult to fulfill in today’s environment. The approach described in (b) is more promising since it attempts to build inherent features into the layout that enable it to adapt to changes in the production environment. will allow companies to reconfigure machines rather easily on a frequent basis.would be adequate to address the needs of factories in the future. and 74]. lighter composite materials. we can broadly classify approaches to design of factory layouts for dynamic environments into two major categories. 58]. 69. 3. In today’s volatile manufacturing environment. What is challenging for designers is that very often. A Classification Scheme In view of the above discussion. or (b) a layout with inherent features (for example. it seems reasonable for a designer not to look beyond the next period and instead generate layouts that can be reconfigured quickly and without much cost to suit the upcoming period’s production requirements.at least on its own . nano-technology and laser cutting. 7 . routings.

The second approach takes the view that layouts would have to be reconfigured after each period. this is not always the case. Ohio State University. Some examples include [32]. Much of the literature. we use operational performance as a design criterion to generate what we term agile layouts. This includes a recent paper by Fu and Kaku [23] who argued that the conventional measure of average travel distances is indeed a good predictor of operational performance. the challenge is to design layouts that minimize the reconfiguration cost while guaranteeing reasonable material flow efficiency in each period. we will show that in many cases layouts that are designed using operational performance as a criterion can be very different from those that minimize average material handling effort. Unfortunately. relies on measures of expected material handling efficiency . Few papers. 4. A limited number of papers have considered operational performance as an evaluation criterion. As we will argue in the next section. and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. [42] and [43]. A more promising approach is one that attempts to pre-design reconfigurable features into the layout so that reconfiguration costs are always minimal. by expected work-in-process. we describe research being carried out by the Research Consortium on Next Generation Factory Layouts. The consortium is funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and several industries and involves collaboration between three universities: the University of Minnesota. this is difficult to satisfy in a volatile environment. Next Generation Factory Layouts In this section. The first three approaches present novel layout configurations. 49. we focus on four promising approaches to layout design that address four distinct needs of the flexible factory. such as [47] and [65]. Therefore. 8. Papers that try to balance reconfiguration costs versus material flow efficiency include [5. 57. In order to carry out this balancing. Very few papers have taken this approach. for example. including papers that deal with dynamic environments. In particular. The goal of the consortium is to explore alternative and novel layout configurations for factories that must deal with high product variety or high volatility in their production requirements. namely distributed. this approach requires knowledge of production for each future period. We report on preliminary work undertaken by consortium members in the last two years. as measured. 15. In fact. modular and reconfigurable layouts. 41.a weighted sum of travel distances incurred by the material handling system – in evaluating candidate layouts. 63. Others have used a combined mean and variance criterion to minimize the range of fluctuation in performance – see for example [61]. a layout is evaluated by its ability to guarantee a certain level of performance for each period or under each scenario. 8 . In the fourth approach. as previously discussed. Layout design methods for dynamic environment could also be classified based on the design criteria used to evaluate layout alternatives. 74 and 82]. use a robustness criteria where instead of mean performance.

and queueing times be affected? How should material flow be managed. For example. 9 . work-in-process. The size of the facility and the high diversity of product routings made the distances between individual departments fairly significant. now that there is greater routing flexibility? How should the competing needs for material handling of similar sub- departments be coordinated? There are also important questions regarding what performance measure is appropriate when designing distributed layouts. More importantly. how would material handling times. Disaggregating functional departments and placing the resulting smaller sub-departments in non- adjoining areas of the layout poses several important design challenges.4. Having duplicates of the same departments. In turn.1 Distributed layouts The distributed layout concept is based on the notion that disaggregating large functional departments into smaller sub-departments and distributing them throughout the plant floor can be a useful strategy in highly volatile environments. which can be strategically located in different areas of the factory floor. As a result efficient flows can be more easily found for a larger set of product volumes and mixes. how should the sub-departments be created? How many should be created? How much capacity should be assigned to each sub-department? Where should each sub-department be placed? How should workload be allocated among similar sub-departments? There are also questions regarding the impact of department disaggregation and distribution on operational performance. a fixed layout that can perform well over the entire set of possible demand scenarios is desirable. a leading manufacturer of water filtration products.1. or should we use a measure of robustness that guarantees a minimum level of performance under each scenario. Their facility was initially organized into 10 functional areas with 4 to 8 workstations per department. the company found it almost impossible to develop a meaningful layout for its facility. how sensitive are the final layouts to the adopted performance measure? 4. Should we use a measure of expected material handling cost over the set of possible demand scenarios. For example. this improves the material travel distances of a larger number of product sequences. The distribution of similar departments throughout the factory floor increases the accessibility to these departments from different regions of the layout. Thus. is desirable in a variable environment since it allows a facility to hedge against future fluctuations in job flow patterns and volumes. Such a procedure is especially appealing in environments where the frequency with which product demand fluctuation occurs is too high for a relayout of the plant to be feasible after each change.1 Motivating Example Our initial interest in distributed layouts was motivated by work with REI. Due to the high product variety and demand volatility. Examples of departments with varying degrees of department disaggregation and distribution are shown in Figure 2.

Layouts with varying degrees of distribution .(a) Functional layout (b) Partially distributed layout (c) Maximally distributed layout Figure 2 .

are given in [13] and [49]. as well as an effective decomposition solution procedure. Characterizing the product demand distributions may be based on historical data and/or forecasts. Alternatively. In the case of REI. can be either independent or correlated. In particular. the set of scenarios can be aggregated into a smaller subset. 4. then including flow 10 . we determine for each possible demand scenario the amount of material flow due to each product between each pair of departments. When the demand distributions are difficult to characterize. A model for this layout-flow allocation problem. we also need to determine the optimal flow allocation among sub-departments of the same type. it is significant even in the absence of variability. each with its own probability of occurrence.1. Although the advantage of distributed layouts is most pronounced when demand variability is high.2 A Layout Design Procedure Some of the above questions are explored in [13. we considered situations where the demand for each product is characterized by a finite discrete distribution. From (1) the distribution of demand scenarios.3 Some results with a procedure for developing distributed layouts Preliminary experimentation with distributed layouts. This results in a multi-product from-to flow matrix for each demand scenario.The need for disaggregating and distributing their large functional departments throughout the factory was initially adopted to reduce the large distances that must be traveled by in-process material. The basic steps of the procedure can be summarized as follows. indicate that significant benefits can be realized by disaggregating and distributing functional departments (over 40% improvement in most cases) [13]. it was soon discovered. and (3) the product unit transfer loads. using both randomly generated examples and data collected from REI. that when coupled with effective workload allocation. which is representative of the range of possible demand realizations. characterized by a finite discrete distribution. This is particularly the case for layouts with large departments or a large number of departments. 49]. The result in both cases is a set of scenarios consisting of different product demand combinations. this distribution resulted in significantly lower material handling costs and shorter material handling times even when demand variability was high. we have a combined layout and flow allocation problem. If the distribution of flow patterns can be categorized a-priori. equal likelihood can be assigned to the set of possible demand scenarios. Demand for each product.1. 4. with order sizes varying over a finite range of discrete order choices. However. Thus. represented by a finite number of demand realization scenarios and probabilities of occurrence of each scenario. such an aggregation is possible since orders from different retailers tend to be highly correlated. For each scenario. The objective is to select a layout that provides efficient flow over the entire set of scenarios. (2) the product routings.

This cell is disbanded once the product is phased out or once the customer order is completed. most of the benefits of department duplication are realized with relatively few replicates. as shown in Figure 3. Instead of redesigning the facility for each phase of product growth. This can be achieved. for example. More importantly. by a random distribution of sub- departments). Additional machines are added to the periphery of the existing layout as needed and without necessarily relocating equipment. Virtual cells Figure 3 – Using distributed layouts to construct Virtual Cells 11 ..g. this approach allows adding or subtracting capacity in smaller increments than would be possible otherwise since introducing or removing capacity always takes place at the periphery while maintaining the factory core intact. This means that there would be rarely a need to fully disaggregate functional departments. we have found that distributed configurations can be useful in handling growth or contraction in a graceful manner [49]. For example. Furthermore. In addition the quality of distributed layouts is quite insensitive to inaccuracies in the demand distribution. by the formation of temporary cells dedicated to a particular product line or customer job order. However. Growth occurs almost in a concentric fashion that keeps layout space compact and maintains efficient material handling. An early vision of these virtual cells is also discussed in Drolet [16]. material handling costs can be significantly reduced even if no flow information is included (e. But most importantly.information at the design stage can lead to higher quality layouts. The individual replicates are then free to participate in new cells. by finding adjoining replicates that can be temporarily dedicated to a product line or a customer job. Having a layout where department replicates are distributed throughout the plant floor can also be effective in handling products with short runs or products with short lifecycles. in many industries product maturity occurs over several periods. we found that a distributed layout can significantly minimize rearrangement costs which would be necessary if a functional configuration is adopted. These cells can be quickly formed.

The research sought to answer the following fundamentally new questions: Could an alternative layout other than the three traditional layouts be a better fit for the material flow network in a multi-product manufacturing facility? And. while there may be material handling benefits to department disaggregation and distribution. such as operators. 4. We are considering a novel approach based on the idea that layouts can be constructed as a network of basic modules.2 Modular Layouts The focus of this approach is on design of customized layouts for facilities with multiple products.1. flow line. and waste disposal facilities.3 Research Challenges Several research challenges remain to be addressed. This would mean smaller batches and possibly longer and more frequent setups. Thus. 37-39]. In practice. The proposed concept uses the idea of grouping and arranging the machines required for subsets 12 . we assumed full flexibility in assigning workload among duplicates of the same department. Therefore. Our initial models do not account for the cost of disaggregating and distributing departments nor do they capture the economies of scale associated with operating consolidated departments. and cellular) can individually describe the complex material flow network in a multi-product manufacturing facility. we assumed that the number of department copies and the capacity of each copy are known. at least in the short term. the product mix is known and demand is relatively stable. The infrastructure that is typically shared by a single consolidated department in job shops. Order splitting could also cause delays in shipping completed orders due to poor synchronization among individual batches of the same order. The use of modules is motivated by the fact that none of the prevailing layout configurations (functional. there is a need for an integrated model that combines department duplication and capacity assignment with layout design and flow allocation. must be duplicated in a distributed layout across all department copies.4. loading/unloading areas. computer control systems. As the product mix evolves and demand changes. In our initial flow allocation model. In practice. Here. certain layout modules will be eliminated and others added. these are decisions that facility designers must make before the layout process can be carried out. Addressing this problem would require either capturing setup minimization in the objective function or placing additional constraints on flow allocation to prevent order splitting. In our initial effort. we assume that. these benefits should be carefully traded-off against the advantages of operating consolidated facilities. could this alternative layout be a combination of the three traditional layouts? The proposed concept of designing any facility layout as a network of layout modules provides a meta-structure for the design of multi-product manufacturing facilities. Preliminary research on this topic was undertaken and has recently been reported in [35. this could result in splitting orders that belong to the same product among several duplicates.

different pairs of routings had one or more common substrings of operations that were either identical or. The initial set of modules we are proposing consists of the three traditional layouts shown in Figure 5. as is usually done to design a cellular layout for a multi- product manufacturing facility. 4. In addition. ETCH. the Flowline and Cell Modules have a part family focus.2 Classification of Layout Modules It appears that the material flow network in any multi-product facility can be decomposed into a network of layout modules. METROLOGY and BACKEND. It was designed during a study that was done for Motorola Inc. In the layout of Figure 4. The company wanted to assess the feasibility of changing the functional layout in one of their semiconductor fabs into a cellular layout. Unlike the functional. despite being dissimilar. the Cell Module is an aggregation of a family of similar routings based on a 13 . A common observation was made that dissimilar product routings often had common substrings of operations that could be aggregated into layout modules.2.1 Motivation Figure 4 shows an example of a new layout configuration that is being proposed for multi-product manufacturing facilities. The Functional layout in the fab is comprised of seven bays (or process departments) – DIFF. as shown in Figure 4. flowline or cellular layouts. this layout has allowed some machine duplication. For example. However. PHOTO. Four product routings that were representative of the product flows in the fab were provided for the study. Each layout module is a group of machines connected by a material flow network with a well-understood flow pattern and method for design of its layout. The Flowline Module is an aggregation of one or more routings that are identical.of operations in different routings into a specific (traditional) layout configuration that minimizes total flow distances or costs. Since this work for Motorola Inc. this layout uses a combination of the three traditional layouts to arrange the equipment in different areas of the facility. 4. This was because the creation of flowline cells based on grouping one or more routings required significant equipment and process duplication among the cells. A layout module is a group of machines in a portion of the overall facility that has a flow pattern characteristic of a traditional layout. had high commonality of operations. Based on this observation. FILM. the novel layout shown in Figure 4 was generated. Whereas. The study found that a cellular layout was not a viable option for the fab. a visual string matching analysis of the routings revealed that.2. IMPLANT. all pairs of consecutive operations in all the product routings are performed in (a) the same layout module or (b) adjacent layout modules. 37]. with each module representing a portion of the entire facility [35.. a study of samples of product routings obtained from published data and from industry was conducted. at least.

07 Flowline for PHOTO 2.06 2.Example layout modules .08 Functional Layout for 5.05 5.09 2.03 5.02 1.08 2.01 3.05 2.01 Cell for ETCH.06 5.05 5.04 1.05 3.07 2.01 3.03 7.02 3.02 5.04 5.01 3. FILM and PHOTO Flowlines for DIFF Figure 4 .05 6.01 7.Example of a facility layout designed using layout modules C D A B C D E A B G H E F (a) Flowline Module (b) Branched Flowline Module C B D A+B+C A E (d) Machining Center Module (c) Cell Module B D A B C D C E A E (f) Patterned Flow Module (e) Functional Layout Module Figure 5 . Functional Layout for ETCH Flowline for ETCH 2.03 1.02 4.04 7.02 7. IMPLANT and PHOTO Functional Layout for ETCH.01 5.01 1.04 3.10 2.07 FILM Department 7.03 3.02 5.05 1.06 5.04 Flowline for BACKEND 5.04 3.

Common substring is a substring of consecutive operations that is common to two or more operation sequences. The residual substrings are 3→4 and 5→6 in sequences Sa and Sb. 4. molecular chemistry and the biological sciences [35]. the frequency of global occurrence of each common substring in the routings of all products produced in the facility is computed. Residual substring is the remaining substring(s) of operations in an operation sequence after all common substring(s) are extracted from it.pre-defined level of commonality of machines used and similarity of sequence in which the machines are used. This is related to the problem of determining the optimal number of modules in the final layout. it will be required to aggregate several of those substrings into a single module to minimize machine duplication costs. a Cell Module (M2). defined as follows. Next. as in an assembly or disassembly line or. we developed a solution approach based on the methods of string matching and clustering used extensively in genetics. For example. the common substrings are 1→2 and 7→8. two Patterned Flow Modules (M1. respectively. At the core of the approach is the concept of a ‘common substring’ and a ‘residual substring’ in a product routing. a completely connected digraph. One idea is to develop measures of connectivity and transitivity of the directed graph 14 .2. in the worst case. Since that would entail significant investment in equipment. A measure of dissimilarity and a threshold value for aggregating similar substrings need to be developed.4 Research Challenges Several important research problems need to be solved: (1) Having identified all common substrings. 39]. In order to realize such a structure. a practical approach would be to maximize the number of consecutive operations in a family of routings that are performed in the same module. the material flow pattern in its From-To chart could correspond to an acyclic digraph.4 Solution Approach The ideal solution would have each product completely processed on a dedicated flowline. given the sample of routings for products produced in the facility. the common substrings between all pairs of routings are first extracted.2. in this case. M4) a Flowline Module (M3) and a Functional Layout Module (Machine #2) [37]. Figure 5 shows the typical result expected from this approach – a facility layout that is a network of dissimilar modules. This is followed by a disaggregation step where certain modules are eliminated because they do not fulfill a minimum machine utilization criterion or constraints on machine allocation and duplication among multiple modules. In contrast. In the current version of the approach [37. This is followed by an aggregation step where similar substrings are aggregated and each cluster of substrings becomes a layout module. given two operation sequences Sa (1→2→3→4→7→8) and Sb (1→2→5→6→7→8). the Functional Layout Module is a group of machines that does not process a family of routings. However. 4.

material handling. Here. (4) The performance of this new layout will have to be compared with those of Flowline. setups. consumer electronics. we consider the case where resources can be easily moved around so that frequent relocation of departments is feasible. This is motivated by the fact that in many industries (e. 53]. garment manufacturing. M1 9 M4 10 7 8 9 7 6 1 4 6 10 2 5 3 M3 M2 11 7 1 12 Inter-module flow or flow between a module and an individual machine Intra-module flow Figure 6 . fabrication and assembly workstations are light and can be easily relocated [20. It seems logical to cluster these substrings and aggregate their machines into cell modules based on user-defined thresholds for string clustering. In fact. An important part of this activity will be the computation of all costs associated with a facility layout. An iterative loop needs to be incorporated in the design approach to absorb any module that is rejected based on either or both of these criteria. and processing efficiency.Facility Layout as a Network of Layout Modules 4. etc). recent advances in materials and processing technology are making it easier for manufacturing facilities to be configured and reconfigured on a more frequent basis. home appliances. such as WIP.obtained by aggregating a set of common substrings. For example.g. queuing delays. Cellular and Functional layouts generated for the same facility. many discrete manufactured components are made of composite materials that are light in weight and have 15 . (3) The current approach treats each residual substring as a sequence of operations performed on machines located in process departments.. even in the metal cutting industry. (2) Feasibility criteria need to be established for allocating machines to several modules subject to machine availability and minimum machine utilization criteria.3 Reconfigurable Layouts Our third focus is on design of reconfigurable layouts.

“plug and 16 . the two extreme scenarios would be unlikely. the committee on Visionary Manufacturing Challenges for 2020 [60] has identified adaptable processes and equipment and reconfiguration of manufacturing operations as two key enabling technologies that will help companies overcome two of the six grand challenges or fundamental goals to remain productive and profitable in the year 2020. Instead it would be desirable to relocate some of the resources during each period. When frequent relayout is feasible. It becomes possible to focus only on the immediate product mix and the immediate production volumes. through a workshop and a delphi survey.g. that do not obstruct machining. It may also be possible to design all interface devices for control systems so that they are interchangeable and open. With these developments in materials and processing technology. we must account for these costs when deciding whether it is beneficial to remove a resource or leave in its current location. On the other hand. since we would typically incur (1) some loss in production capacity during the relocation process. and do not magnetize the cutting tool are also being developed [17]. Aluminum composites. These grand challenges are to “achieve concurrency in all operations” and to “reconfigure manufacturing enterprises rapidly in response to changing needs and opportunities”. Newer processing technologies such as electron beam hardening. and startup/setup costs). It is possible to envision facilities where these light weight equipment are mounted on wheels and are easily moved along suitably designed tracks embedded in the shop-floor [28 and 42]. the facility may be designed so that it has embedded tracks that help decrease the cost of moving equipment.much better mechanical properties (e. the layout design problem can be significantly simplified even when product demand and product mix are highly variable.. The cost of relayout could be reduced if investments in infrastructure that facilitates relayout are made during the initial design of the factory.. rewiring costs. molecular nano-technology and laser cutting is resulting in lighter weight machining equipment [3]. As a result. we are moving towards processing technologies which employ light weight machine tools and can process light weight parts. However. phenolics are replacing aluminum parts. In practice. A model and solution approach for this problem is provided in [42]. can now replace cast iron parts [24] and. The magnitude of the relocation costs determine whether a relayout is carried out or not. if relayout costs are prohibitive. among others [2].g. dismantling and reconstruction costs. In the extreme. where relayout costs are insignificant. and (2) a relocation cost associated with the physical movement of resources (e. vibration absorption properties). For example. for instance. A general design and planning framework for carrying out this process is shown in Figure 7. In fact. an entirely new layout can be generated during each period. the existing layout would be retained. The layout would then evolve gradually over time as flow patterns evolve. In such a case. it may not be too far fetched to say that the layout will be changed several times a year. labor cost. The objective function of the model consists of two terms: a material handling cost term and a relocation cost term. Permanent magnetic chucks that carry their own energy source.

work in process inventory.Reconfigurable Facility Layout Methodology 17 . therefore. this cost must more than offset the cost of moving equipment from its current location to a new one. A framework for the reconfigurable layout problem as well as methods for estimating performance measures of such a layout are provided in [29] and [30]. it is possible to consider optimizing operational performance measures such as minimizing part cycle times. due to the short term life of a given layout and production data availability for this time period. and waste disposal may have to be suitably designed for the concept. or throughput. Of course. In addition.play” features may be implemented at the workstation level. transforms the modern layout problem from a strategic problem in which only long term material handling costs are considered to a tactical problem in which operational performance measures such as reduction of product flow times. Support services such as compressed gas. Design Data Production Data + New Product Design + Expected Volume + New Processes Selected + Changed Product Mix Revised Material Flow Matrices / Adjacency Matrices Current Facility Layout Relocation Costs Material Handling Costs Facility Layout Design Output + Machine Locations + Material Flow Plan Figure 7 . work in process inventories. and maximizing throughput rate are considered in addition to material handling and machine relocation costs when changing from one layout configuration to the next. respectively. A primary advantage of reconfiguring a layout when warranted by changes in product mix and volume is that material handling cost can be minimized because equipment can be reconfigured to suit the new production mix and volume. water or coolant lines. The potential to frequently alter layouts. A method for designing layouts with operational performance in mind is given in the next section.

there is a higher proportion of empty travel from and to these departments. This occurs. In a recent review of over 150 papers published over the past ten years on factory layout. Meller and Gau [54] identified only one paper on the subject. human operators and automated guided vehicles). We illustrate this by using the example layouts 18 . such as cycle time. this measure does not take into account the effect of layout on operational performance. adopting layout configurations that can support the needs for low inventories. which. Unfortunately. minimizing full travel can cause empty travel to increase. For example. queueing times at departments. although there may not be any direct flows between them. these measures become increasingly important to the performance of the agile factory where reducing manufacturing cycle times and keeping low inventory levels is key to competitiveness.. it can be beneficial to place departments with high inter-material flows in distant locations from each other. Likewise. we showed that layout configuration does indeed have a direct impact on operational performance. The material handling system operates as a central server in moving material from one department to another. can increase congestion and delays. Thus it can be highly desirable to place departments in neighboring locations even though there is no direct material flow between them as this may reduce empty travel sufficiently enough to reduce overall utilization of the material handling system. forklift trucks. short manufacturing lead times. we account for both empty and full trips made by the material transport devices. In an initial effort [9]. WIP. for example. such as cycle time. The distances traveled by the material transporters are determined by the layout configuration. Therefore. Each processing department is modeled as either a single or a multi-server queue with general distribution of product processing and inter-arrival times. could significantly reduce empty travel.4 Agile Layouts Most existing layout procedures are based on a static measure of material handling cost. and throughput rate. Using the model. However. work-in-process (WIP) accumulation. As production planning periods shrink. and high throughput rates are increasingly being pursued by industry. we developed a queueing model that allows us to capture the effect of layout configuration on key performance metrics.g. We assume that the material handling system consists of discrete devices (e. In this case. Placing these departments in neighboring locations. In determining the transporter travel time distribution. capturing the relationship between layout configuration and operational performance has been notoriously difficult. This is primarily due to the lack of analytical models that are capable of explicitly capturing the effect of layout configuration on operational performance. in turn. The manufacturing facility is modeled as a central server queueing network. often in unpredictable and surprising ways. product routings and product demands. if some departments are visited more frequently than others.4. and throughput rate.

4. 3. In fact. Similarly. even if it is accompanied by an increase in total travel distances. could lead to an overall increase in congestion. which is sufficient to reduce the utilization of the material handling and result in an overall reduction in WIP. even though layout l1 minimizes full travel. we can show that two layouts that are optimal with respect to full travel could have vastly different WIP values. This means that a layout which reduces average distances. Similarly. Therefore. under varying conditions. we found that distance variance plays an important role in determining how much congestion a particular layout would exhibit. process. Despite the fact that there is no direct flows between the department pair (2. the star-layout configuration shown in Figure 9(a) has a significantly smaller variance than the loop layout of 9(b). For example. a reduction in variance. 19 . which are more frequently visited than other departments. 8 and 9 and 10. special attention should be devoted to identifying material handling configurations that minimize not only mean but also variance of travel distances. which itself has a smaller variance than the linear layout of 9(c). and cellular layouts. This is especially the case for systems with automated material handling. In layout l2. It is not difficult to show that congestion. but with an associated increase in variance.i. travel time variance is often dictated by the material handling system. is far worse in layout l1 than in layout l2. departments 2.. they do not account for the variance in these distances. could reduce overall congestion in the system. Furthermore. 4. This could lead to identifying new configurations that are more effective in achieving small WIP levels. In practice.1 Research Challenges Several avenues for future research remain to be explored. we can show that a layout that is optimal with respect to full travel could be operationally infeasible . it results in infinite queuing or WIP accumulation. we found that congestion (for example as measured by WIP) is not necessarily monotonic in the average travel distance by the material handling system.shown in Figure 8. the overall effect is a reduction in empty travel.e. as measured by average WIP.9). it will be highly valuable to use the queueing model to evaluate and compare the performance of different classical layout configurations. such as product. where we have a single product that goes through the following sequence of departments 0→1→2→3→2→2→3→4→5→6→7→8→9→8→9→10→11. A layout that exhibits a small variance may indeed be more desirable than one with a smaller average travel time. Analytical models that account for different routing and dispatching policies of the material handling system need to be constructed. we found that using a design criterion based on average travel distances is a poor indicator of operational performance. More importantly. 3) and (8. These results point to the need to explicitly account for travel time variance when selecting a layout. Because conventional approaches tend to optimize average travel distance by the material handling system. These models could then be used to study the effect of different policies on layout performance. are placed in adjoining locations. In general. Using a queueing model.

ufull = 0.542. 0 1 2 3 7 6 5 4 8 9 10 11 (a) Layout l1: uempty = 0. WIP = 19.41 Figure 8 – The effect of empty travel on WIP accumulation (uempty and ufull refer to the empty and full utilization of the material handling system) .679.311. WIP = 99.00 0 1 6 5 11 2 3 4 7 8 9 10 (a) Layout l2: uempty = 0. ufull = 0.409.

(a) Uni-directional linear layout (b) Loop layout (c) Star layout Figure 9 – Material handling system configurations 20 .

Therefore. travel distances. For example. without significantly affecting average distance. identifying configurations that reduce distance variance.g. Contract Manufacturing – In many industries. Examples of such layouts. can be greatly valuable. the value of WIP tends to appreciate as more work is completed and more value is added to the product. 5. many of the automotive assembly plants are allowing suppliers to deliver components directly to the point-of-use on the final assembly line. Our selection of trends is not meant to be exhaustive. we showed that variability plays an important role in determining WIP levels. Brazil is a showcase for 20 . or a hub-and-spoke layout. Some automobile manufacturers. Michigan which has been T-shaped to maximize supplier access to the factory floor [26]. This would allow us to more effectively examine the tradeoffs between capacity and WIP. for example. such as Volkswagen (VW). new technologies.a good example is the new Cadillac plant in Lansing. Coupled with just-in-time deliveries.In [9]. 53]. where departments are equi-distant from each other. In fact. we report on some emerging trends in industry that could affect layout design in the future. are taking this a step further by allowing suppliers to carry out some or all of the manufacturing and assembly on site [71]. equivalently. Others could transform the layout design problem in significantly different ways or even eliminate it. Another important avenue of research is to integrate layout design with the design of the material handling system.. This can be achieved. and layout design. we could simultaneously decide on material handling capacity (e. it is useful to differentiate between WIP at different departments and/or different stages of the production process. number of transporters) and department placement. could include a star layout configuration. it is more meaningful to assign different holding costs for WIP at different stages. The new VW truck plant in Resende. For example. In many applications. this has led to a reconfiguration of final assembly facilities to accommodate the closer coupling between suppliers and OEM’s. Therefore. with the objective of minimizing both WIP holding cost and capital investment costs. Some of these trends support the layout configurations we discussed in the previous section. Some Emerging Trends in Industry In this section. outside suppliers are increasingly carrying out most of product manufacturing and assembly for the original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) [25. We use it to simply highlight the potential interaction between new business practices. This means that we would then favor layouts that reduce the most expensive WIP first. by letting departments that participate in the last production steps be as centrally located as possible. This has meant designing multiple loading docks and multiple inventory drop-off points throughout the factory . One source of variability is that of travel times or. where each hub consists of several equi-distant departments and is serviced by a dedicated transporter.

Trotter. By using delayed differentiation. who then piece the cars together in record time. through the plant.this so-called modular plant concept [71]. 47]. To support modular plants. or spine. are opting instead for co-locating suppliers in a single large complex [79]. Inc. Implementing delayed differentiation creates a hybrid facility consisting of a flow line-like component. Others companies. It also accommodates gracefully both growth and contraction of supplier operations. houses a final assembly plant and 16 supplier plants. and Goodyear.. for example. In the case where final products can be easily grouped into 21 . a leading manufacturer of high-end exercise treadmills. and a job shop-like component where customization takes place. The configuration allows the addition and removal of suppliers without affecting the main layout. the point in the manufacturing process in which products are assigned individual features is postponed as much as possible. where the product moves along a main artery. where the common platform is built. Their job is to deliver pre-assembled modules to GM's line workers. has employed similar ideas in its plant [19]. also in Brazil. The challenge in this case is to design a layout for each of the individual plants so that material handling throughout the complex is efficient and not to focus only on the local optimization of each plant. each attaching its own module to the moving product. such as General Motors. including plants owned by Delphi. The layout has the hybrid features of both a flow line and multiple autonomous cells. by building a platform common to all products. Lear. factories are being designed using the spine layout concept (see Figure 10). This is accomplished. 46. SPINE OEM’s assembly line Supplier’s production line Figure 10 . The platform is differentiated only after demand is realized by assigning to it certain product-specific features and components.Spine layout for modular plants Delayed Product Differentiation – Increased product variety and the need for mass customization has led many companies to adopt a strategy of delayed product differentiation [19. The GM Gravatai plant. The 17 plants are within walking distance from each other and are connected through a shared material handling system of forklift trucks and conveyors. Linked to the spine are mini-assembly lines owned by the suppliers.

A company executive of EFTC describes the production process as “small production lots moving to any of the standardized production points on the parallel production lines. coupled with the difficulty of maintaining finished stock inventory (due to demand unpredictability or high product variety) has led many manufacturers and suppliers to invest in additional capacity. each dedicated to one of the product families (see figure 11). delayed differentiation could give rise to structures similar to those discussed in section 4.families. often in the form of parallel production lines [20. To take full advantage of the additional capacity. if the customization step is taken out of the factory and is carried out at the point of sale or in distribution warehouses.Hybrid layout for plants with delayed differentiation Multi-Channel Manufacturing – The increased emphasis on quick response manufacturing. factory design would reduce to that of a single high volume/low variety production line. 53. delayed differentiation could also make the layout design problem obsolete. these production lines are often shared across multiple products. Thus.” The concept of shared parallel production lines has also been successfully used at Sun 22 . 55]. EFTC. as it is increasingly the case in the computer industry [51]. a leading contract manufacturer for electronic goods and components. However.2 and could benefit from the associated design tools. offers a good example of multi-channel manufacturing [53]. For example. passing from one line to wherever it is necessary to break bottlenecks and keep products rolling. if taken to the extreme. each product can move in and out of a production line to be processed on neighboring lines. depending on downstream congestion. Undifferentiated product stage (make-to-stock production) Product customization stage (make-to-order production) Figure 11 . The goal from acquiring excess capacity is to reduce cycle time by minimizing the time products spend in queueing. Hence. the job shop structure could be replaced by a set of cells.

these and other efforts could lead to manufacturing facilities where most of the processing takes place on only one machine. Such an effort is being led by the multi-national Initiative on Intelligent Manufacturing Systems (http://www. with flows venturing to outer loops only when congestion arises. which would retain the benefits of parallel lines while accommodating a wider variety of routing. 5-side machining is possible.org). The Sun manufacturing facility consists of three identical lines or cells. a linear structure becomes inefficient when operation sequences vary from product to product. The center allows simultaneous machining using up to 7 machining units and retrofitting of additional machining units.umich. giving Sun up to six parallel production lines. this could make layout design a less critical function for factory planning. there has been a concerted effort in the metal cutting industry to develop machines that are highly flexible and scalable. setting up parallel and linear production lines. Each cell. Scalable Machines – In the last few years. In turn. would indeed provide the necessary flexibility and cycle time reduction.engin.edu/). production would be assigned to inner loops. even with only 2 machining units fitted. An alternative might be a concentric configuration consisting of multiple identical loops. These machines are to be multifunctional and capacity adjustable. If successful. Inc. This means that the basic functionality and efficiency of the machines can be easily upgraded by plugging in additional modules or acquiring additional software. The TRAK QuikCell QCM-1 available from Southwestern Industries.southwesternindustries. making material handling and material movement minimal.ims.Microsystems for its line of desktop workstations [20]. In order to reduce material handling effort. US and European machine tool makers [36]. A parallel effort is also being carried out by the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center on Reconfigurable Machines at the University of Michigan (http://erc. Portable Machines – Several equipment manufacturers are beginning to market portable machines that can be easily and dynamically deployed and re-deployed in different areas of the factory in response to changing production requirements. where the focus is on building easily customizable machines that match the needs of a changing product mix and production volumes [45]. An example of a commercial product that already exhibits some of these capabilities is the TRIFLEX machining center. Especially significant is the fact that a single machining unit can be fitted to a long base slide enabling the machining of all sides of a workpiece in one station and machining of the front face in another station. in turn.com) 23 . similar to those at EFTC or SUN. Therefore. However. marketed by Turmatic Systems. As long as flow patterns and product routings do not change significantly. Automatic loading and unloading systems can be easily fitted with potential for full integration into equal or other machine systems. A drawback of concentric layouts is the potential increase in space requirement. has two mirror image sides which can be turned on or off. and supported by a large conglomerate of Japanese. (www. We mention two such examples from the machine tool industry.

Due to the relative independence of these cells. Since this facility faces a very high frequency of product design changes. machine tools would be “picked from the shelves” and co-located into the manufacturing line. Their portable machine tools has the same functionality of stationary machine tools used for repairing turbines. With portable machine tools. Fortunately. there is technology being developed that allows the easy storage and retrieval of large equipment. up to 20-stories. conveyor-mounted work cells can be easily moved from one location to another with minimum downtime [18]. etc. factory layout would have to be designed to facilitate the flow of machines instead that of parts. air for coolant sprayer.. Although originally designed for building automated parking garages. Inc. Hence. The second example of a company that produces portable machine tools is Climax Portable Machine Tools. the technology is finding applications in manufacturing and warehousing. modular. Robotic Parking Inc.) does not require re-leveling after moving. they can be unplugged from the main assembly line and moved to a new location depending upon the current product being assembled. For systems with portable machines. and above ground or underground.cpmt.com/tech.html) has developed a Modular Automated Parking System (MAPS) that integrates computer control with mechanical lifts.com). The small footprint of the machine allows it to fit through most doors and its rigid frame (2750 lbs. (www. Canada which manufactures business telephone equipment. In Northern Telecom’s facility in Calgary. The machine can be located in close proximity to the one or two primary machining and/or turning centers dedicated to the production of a family of parts that require preliminary or secondary operations on other machines.is a compact and mobile milling machine that has found application in small lot.’s (www. paper machinery. In this case. workpiece is stationary and movement is incurred by the machine. For example. generic.roboticparking. Complete facilities can be constructed with lots as small as 60 ft. pallets and carriers to park and retrieve large equipment in multi-level modular warehouses. job shop machining. power draw bar and air hose. the machines could be maintained in a MAPS-like warehouse adjacent to the main manufacturing floor. the issue of machine storage and retrieval becomes important. Quick disconnects are available for electrical supply. The foundation of the machine tool consists of a base casting for easy moving with a pallet jack from any side. Depending on the product mix and demand volumes. heavy equipment. 24 . the conveyor- mounted work cells allow tooling and layout to be changed just before and to suit the new production and assembly schedule. – the portable machine tool goes to the workplace and it mounts on the workpiece – instead of the other way around. by 60 ft.

9900039. Concluding Remarks In this article. and the St Onge Corporation. St Jude Medical. Motorola. Honeywell. We highlighted some of the limitations of current practice in layout design and outlined some challenges that need to be addressed by both the research community and practitioners. To this effect. Additional support has been provided by Polarfab. 25 . we described research being carried out by a recently formed university consortium on Next Generation Factory Layouts whose goal is to address some of these challenges.6. we provided an overview of emerging trends in design of next generation factory layouts. funded by the National Science Foundation under grants DMII 9908437. We surveyed existing academic literature dealing with design of layouts in dynamic environments. Acknowledgments: This research is. we reported on some emerging trends in industry that could affect layout design in the future. Recovery Engineering. and 9821033. The goals of this article are to stimulate thought and discussion about alternative and novel ways of organizing factories of the future. Finally. HP. in part. We hope we are in some small measure successful in provoking thought and laying out possibilities for future research directions.

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