Designing or Improving a High-Volume Production or Automation Laboratory? What Layout is Best for You?

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Are you prioritizing optimization of laboratory design and layout?  There are many ways to layout benching in your laboratory space. In this article, we look at incorporating lean principles to optimize design layouts primarily for high throughput production and automation laboratories. There are T-Shaped Layouts, U-Shape Layouts and Z or S-Shaped layouts.

Key pointers to maximize work-cell optimization.

  1. Minimize transit times between laboratory work spaces with in the cell
  2. Simplify how product/samples move from cell to cell
  3. Ensure cell is functional and operator/s has competence to manage multiple workspaces/stations.

Calculate Proactivity Rates

Before you choose the right layout, it is important to understand how to calculate productivity rates in work stations/cells. Here are the five steps to assist with the calculation of productivity rates followed by a simple example.

  1. Determine Available Work Time
  2. Track Lost Time
  3. Determine Productivity Rate
  4. Backtrack Cycle Times
  5. Determine Work Cell Output

Work Cell Design

Be careful not to place production cells to close together as this can result in restriction in operator manoeuvrability and can inhibit their ability to move semi-finished product/samples from one chain to the next.

U-Cell

  1. Simple route eminent from entrance to exit points
  2. Operators have ability to access multiple work stations with minimal movement.
  3. Free access of semi-finished work from one station to the next
  4. Operators own complete workflow – from entrance to exit point

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T-Cell

  1. Ideal for semi-finished product/samples that requires two or more sources of raw components.
  2. Ideal for cross-function manufacturing where several product lines can be worked on at the same time.
  3. Easy designation of entrance and departure points

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Z-Shaped or S-Shaped Cell

  1. Ideal for working in and around obstacles.
  2. Focus points (A & B) allows for easy access to either work station: between stations 1 & 2 as well as between stations 3 & 4

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Conclusion

Laboratory work stations and cell designs need to be near each other, but not so close that it slows down how semi-finished and finished product/samples move from one station to the next.  Operators need clear, open zones with which to operate equipment. Track the productivity rates emerging from individual work stations and then backtrack cycle times to define production capacities within those stations and the entire work cell. If need be, you can use these to measure the production throughput from each individual cell.

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