Designing for Operational Excellence

Kristina Pumphrey, PE – CRB
Associate / Operational Improvement Specialist

It seems counterintuitive to wait until a facility is in operation to apply Lean/ Six Sigma techniques to improve operational efficiency.  There are many decisions made during design that affect operations.  The facility layout affects travel paths and the distance traveled to move material and personnel throughout the facility.  When developing the layout it is important to look at adjacencies and frequencies of operations in order to optimize the layout and ensure there is no excessive movement.  Equipment sizing sets the batch size and expected throughput in the facility.  Small batch sizes help to make the process more responsive to product demands and tend to reduce inventories.   Large batch sizes help to minimize non-value adding activities such as set ups, cleaning, quality testing, etc.  Weighing the pros and cons of these items can help to optimize batch sizes and assist in minimizing product lead times. Room air classifications have a large impact on energy consumption in the facility.  Reducing room sizes and downgrading air classification can reduce airflow and energy consumption in the facility. 

Design efforts also provide an opportunity to improve existing processes.  In most cases, capital projects stem from the need to provide additional products and/or additional manufacturing capacity for current products.  Understanding and quantifying current manufacturing capacity & capabilities helps to make informed decisions that focus future investments where it is needed.  Benefits include:

  • Ability to address issues with current processes
  • Minimize non-value added activities to improve efficiency and reduce cycle times to increase throughput in existing equipment.
  • Minimize gaps between current and future operations which will focus capital investments and staffing expenditures where needed.

It is important to factor in operational efficiency when designing or retrofitting a facility.  Applying lean/ Six Sigma techniques is an effective method of achieving significant and long lasting efficiency gains.   This approach also gives the team a good understanding of current manufacturing capacity & capabilities to help make informed decisions and focus investments where they are most needed.


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Official blog of: INTERPHEX New York -
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