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Relative Values of General-purpose versus Special-purpose Factory Buildings

General-Purpose Buildings: More general-purpose buildings than special-purpose buildings have been built in the past, and this is still true despite the construction in recent years of an increasing number of special-purpose buildings. This is probably due to the fact that general-purpose structures can be utilized for almost every light-duty manufacturing process; a firm in any type of industry that does not require a tailor-made building can fit itself into any sufficiently large, general-purpose building.

General purpose buildings are built with little or no regard for the specific processes to be carried on in them. Consequently, the proper location of service facilities or where to suspend power conduits and exhaust-fan system ducting become difficult layout problems. Everything must be squeezed in by the layout engineer wherever he can best fit it. As a result, overall processing efficiency is often impaired. Most general-purpose buildings assume one of several common shapes.

In Fact, its shape ordinarily identifies a general-purpose building. Among the common general-purpose building sham are the following

1. Square (solid or hollow).

2. Rectangle (solid or hollow).

3. E-shape.

4. H -shape.

5. L-shape.

6. T-shape.

7. U-shape.

Certain shapes are rarely if ever used for general-purpose buildings. Among these are the F,Y, circle, and triangle. A few do exist, perhaps, but it is much more likely that such buildings are special-purpose structures.

The large general-purpose building is more readily adaptable to the changes inevitable in any process than is the special-purpose building. Process changes are caused by such things as sales mixture variations reflecting shifts in customer demand, alteration in machine capacity, and current inconvenience of service facility locations which formerly were convenient.

Consequently, to provide flexibility of operations and to allow for future process changes, general-purpose buildings are preferred by some managements. They permit the use of a given building for a longer period of years than if it had been built around a specific process, itself subject to changes likely to render the building functionally obsolete in a relatively short period of time.

Special-purpose Buildings:

These are buildings constructed around a specific process. The machines, machine tools, and other equipment are chosen first, then the factory layout is set up as ideally as possible in the best judgment of the engineer. After this has been done, the building itself is designed to conform precisely to this layout.

The machines, handling equipment, and service facilities of special-purpose industrial buildings are so arranged as to provide maximum processing efficiency at the time of construction. Future process changes as in the concern having a general-purpose building. Consequently, the so-called “ideal” layout may be quickly outmoded, making the building functionally inefficient and the firm is noncompetitive in its industry.

Nevertheless, special-purpose buildings are required in many industries. For example, consider the foundry, the steel mill, and the oil refinery with its miles of pipelines. Almost any shape may be expected in such a special-purpose industrial building, because it is designed around a special-purpose layout of special-purpose equipment.

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