Designing Facility Layout

Facility layout and design is an important component of a business's overall operations, both in terms of maximizing the effectiveness of production processes and meeting employee needs and/or desires. Small business owners need to consider many operational factors when building or renovating a facility for maximum layout effectiveness. These criteria include the following:

  • Ease of future expansion or change: Facilities should be designed so that they can be easily expanded or adjusted to meet changing production needs.
  • Flow of movement: The facility design should reflect recognition of the importance of smooth process flow. In the case of factory facilities, the editors of How to Run a Small Business state that "ideally, the plan will show the raw materials entering your plant at one end and the finished product emerging at the other. The flow need not be a straight line. Parallel flows, U-shaped patterns, or even a zig-zag that ends up with the finished product back at the shipping and receiving bays can be functional. However, backtracking is to be avoided in whatever pattern is chosen. When parts and materials move against or across the overall flow, personnel and paperwork become confused, parts become lost, and the attainment of coordination becomes complicated”.
  • Materials handling: Small business owners should make certain that the facility layout makes it possible to handle materials (products, equipment, containers, etc.) in an orderly, efficient—and preferably simple—manner.
  • Output needs: The facility should be laid out in a way that is conducive to helping the business meet its production needs.
  • Space utilization: This aspect of facility design includes everything from making sure that traffic lanes are wide enough to making certain that inventory storage warehouses or rooms utilize as much vertical space as possible.
  • Ease of communication and support: Facilities should be laid out so that communication within various areas of the business and interactions with vendors and customers can be done in an easy and effective manner.
  • Impact on employee morale and job satisfaction: Some ways in which layout design can increase morale are providing for light-colored walls, windows, space; including a cafeteria in the facility design.
  • Promotional value: If the business commonly receives visitors in the form of customers, vendors, investors, etc., the small business owner may want to make sure that the facility layout is an attractive one that further burnishes the company's reputation.
  • Safety: The facility layout should enable the business to effectively operate in accordance with Occupational Safety guidelines.


•    Encyclopedia of Small Business,