Plant layout may be developed according to either the products or the processes depending upon the method of production used in the factory. There are three basic ways of arranging and grouping production machinery in plants. Accordingly, three primary types of plant layout are usually distinguished: (i) product (or line) layout, (ii) process (or functional) layout, and (iii) a combination of product and process layout. Here, product or line layout is discussed only. Process or functional layout, and (iii) a combination of product and process layout are discussed later.
1. Product or Line Layout: Product or line layout means the arrangement of the machines in a line (not necessarily straight) in the order in which they would be used in the process of manufacture of the product. It is suitable for the continuous mass production of goods as it makes it possible for the raw materials to be fed into the plant at one end and taken out as finished products on the other.
In the line type of layout, there will be a separate production line for each type of product. Each line may have the same machines though these may be arranged differently or the machines for each line may be different.
Advantages of Product Layout.
(i) Mechanization of material handling: Since this type of layout ensures continuous flow of materials in a line, throw various machines, it is easy to use the mechanical devices of material handling like conveyors. In this way, the materials can move quickly and economically under this type of layout.
(ii) Avoidance of bottlenecks: With proper arrangements, such layout avoids and eliminates bottlenecks (i.e., the stoppage of work at various points of production). This enables the production to proceed smoothly.
(iii) Economy in material handling: It avoids unnecessary material handling because goods have not to be transported frequently from one place to another. Similarly, the material has not to be carried forward and backward from the respective departments. They need only to be fed into the receiving end of machine; after that no transportation or movement of the materials is needed till the finished product is manufactured.
(iv) Economy of manufacturing time: It follows from the above that the manufacturing time is considerably shortened because such layout does not require time-consuming internal transportation till the completion of the process of production.
(v) No accumulation of work-in-progress: Since the production is continuous and uninterrupted, work-in-progress as represented by the semi-finished products is almost negligible.
(vi) Introduction of production control: The continuous nature of production also enables management to introduce and enforce production control. Production control means the planning of the manufacturing operations, and the adoption of measures to execute the task in accordance with the plans chalked out.
(vii) Economical inspection: In an integrated continuous production line, defective practices can easily be detected and segregated. This makes inspection easy and economical.
Disadvantages of Product Layout.
As against the above advantages, the line or product layout suffers from the following drawbacks
(i) Inflexibility: Since the various operations follow each other in a line, adjustment in the course of production cannot be made without difficulty. This means that this system of layout is not quite flexible.
(ii) Expensive: Under this type of layout, the machines are not arranged according to functions with the result that one type of equipment may have to be laid at a number of places in the various ‘lines’, e.g., welding machines or lathe machines may be fixed for each line of production separately. This is more expensive in terms of the cost of equipment.
(iii) Difficulty of Supervision: What has been said above in (ii) may also be true of supervision. Since there are no separate departments for the various specialized jobs, specialization in supervision becomes very difficult.
iv) Difficulty of expansion: It is usually difficult to expand the production beyond the capacity of each line of production under this type of layout.
(v) Interruption through breakdown: Any breakdown of equipment along a production line can disrupt the whole work of production.