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Layout for Maintenance Shop. Job Shop. Machine Shop

Layout, or the physical organization of people, materials and machines within a workplace, is at the very heart of productivity. That is also true in maintenance, or a machine or job shop. In some ways the layout is tougher.

Maintenance is a complex function, which does somewhat complicate the layout of a department. This article relates to the special characteristics of Shop Layout, perhaps maintenance shops, or stand-alone special purpose shops. If you have a maintenance department or a shop to layout and move, this article will be useful. For a discussion or assistance at no cost or obligation contact Jack Greene at 843-422-1298

These factors affect shop layout.

They represent everyday life in maintenance, and tend to relate to one another.

1. A maintenance department will have many responsibilities throughout a facility, "all the different departments involved", it's called quite aptly; see below for a long list.
Should the various maintenance functions be centralized, or distributed near the area of responsibility? If centralized, the maintenance staff will have to travel to the client.
If shops are distributed to be near the client or work area, then employees are scattered and supervision is more difficult. Even with a centralized shop location, some basic equipment and materials might be kept at the site of the action.

A subset of this discussion is reaction to client problems; if the maintenance people are closer, they have less distance to travel and react more quickly. But space in a modern mechanized manufacturing function is usually precious.

2. Maintenance functions often utilize completely different tools and equipment. Layout must provide space for all of the gear. And special purpose equipment will often be utilized infrequently, raising the question of whether it is needed or not. At best, maintenance employees will frequently be away from their shop, in a client location.

3. The work of a maintenance department is often controlled by others, as client issues usually set maintenance employee priorities. Priorities will affect not only employees but also equipment, tools, supplies, spare parts, change parts. These items may be stored on site and administered, whether they are used by in-house or contract tradesmen. If so, layouts must provide secure storage.

4. Maintenance employees may work off-hours, when production equipment is not in use. Layouts must provide space adequate for the crew at all hours.

5. A big challenge to maintenance is demand maintenance; what to do when lights flicker or go out; what to do when production components go down. What can layout or placement of your equipment or parts do to ease the demand situation, to react more quickly whether the problem is power interruption or typical equipment breakdown?

6. Is it better to group equipment by type (mills, lathes) or by use (maintenance category), or is there not enough of any type to matter?

7. Maintenance equipment is fed by a wide variety of utilities, and a layout must optimize utility feeds from their main distribution points.

8. Maintenance will utilize functions such as purchasing; will that work be done in the maintenance area? Where is CMMS, CAD-CAM, preventive maintenance?

9. Various physical characteristics, such as heavy foundations for equipment, drains, environmental controlled areas may be required for performance of department duties.

Key factors to achieve successful layouts may not be quite the same in shops.

Careful layout will provide materials movement without retracing steps, visibility of inventory and of work, easy access of direct and support people, superior material handling, safety, housekeeping, emergency routes, an avenue for growth. That is a modern, politically correct statement.

But any specific layout will have to prioritize the specific objectives, which are different for high volume production, than for low volume long cycle tasks frequently found in job shops or maintenance.

1. Better flow pattern for materials and / or people may not be so important in a shop where work is not predictable and repeatable. Space utilization will likely be an important factor.

2. A fixed sequence of events characterizes production layouts, but maintenance tasks are quite variable, and flexible workplaces predominate.

3. The destination for relocation will be dictated, or open to discussion, and the two are completely different.

a. If space is assigned, the approach to layout is simpler; list the contents and fit them into the space designated.

b. If location and space are not assigned but to be determined, there will be more steps in the project but results can benefit the shop or department. A choice of size and locations will allow more location options to be considered, which can result in a more user friendly location; lower costs; better service to clients; better layout. But when a wider scope is considered and the number of moving parts is considered, the planning challenge increases.

There is no universal template because one solution does not fit all

If you want a universal template or layout or formula, this article won't help much. I'm sorry but there is no single quick fix, because equipment, process, flow, and building plans have such a major effect on layout and they vary widely. Variable factors in your facility will be unique, so your layout will be unique.

Tricks of the Layout Trade

A new layout can be achieved quickly even if it is not a universal, off the shelf, template. As with any other project, experience and skill can produce rapid and effective results.

A layout can be large or small in scope, tailored to your objectives, timetable and budget. Major layouts often are phased over time. Remember it may be years before you perform the next re-layout; better get this one right.

Steps 1 and 2 are key in any layout. Both are easy to say, remarkably hard to accomplish. And I guarantee trouble if you try to plan a layout before you finish both.

1. Define the destination area; size, location, access to utilities and services.

2. List the equipment, furnishings, stores, tools, and belongings that are to be moved. Everything. Define the utilities and services to the objects to be moved, so the new operation will function.

3. It is very common to execute a relocation with a "checkers" game, a series of sequential moves. But there has to be an empty space on your checkerboard to start with. First move into the empty space, then move something else into the just-vacated space, and so on.

4. A prerequisite to any layout is to define material handling into an area, considering material dimensions and eight, overhead lift, trucks, conveyors, etc.

5. Modern computerized layout programs assist immensely to create options, but only after the principles of flow and layout have dictated equipment and material placement to perform the correct sequence of required tasks efficiently.

6. Plot several options for placement and movement as "block" layouts. Discuss them with the stakeholders, modify and create an efficient, safe, long lasting arrangement with good flow. Then "detail" the chosen option down to the level necessary to install equipment, furnishings, utilities and connections.

Both block and detail layouts are actually more easily accomplished by printing a footprint of the area, and templates of all equipment to the same scale, then arranging templates on the footprint by hand, and comparing options. Enter the chosen option into the computer.

7. Determine how and from where utilities will be provided, because while overhead supply is much easier it can block access to equipment and interfere with sight lines and vision.

8. Try to create "pockets" of empty floor space in the layout, with nothing permanently installed there. Then when a new requirement arises, you will have room to maneuver.

9. Optimize the valuable contribution of maintenance employees in both layout and the move, through all the steps above. A layout is one of the situations which benefits from contribution from stakeholders, especially those who staff the operation.

The inevitable relocation move

involves a sequence of events; prepare the destination, connect the services needed, name a date, pack up, disconnect, the move itself, reconnect, unpack, start up.

1. Put an ID tag on every item to be moved, and position ID's on the chosen layout.

2. Arrange for riggers, movers, and / or material handling equipment to assist with the physical move.

3. Over a short time, or in a staged manner to meet operating commitments, make the physical move, relocating each piece of equipment to the proper location.

4. Note that involved employees can facilitate the relocation if they take personal responsibility for items in their own workspace. However, shop people have operating tasks to perform, and may not be able to aid in the relocation. If operating commitments prevent a personal involvement, use a contract mover or rigger.

Thanks for the time, I hope the article was useful. JPR welcomes the opportunity to discuss your particular application.

Jack Greene, Jackson Productivity Research Inc.

What's Next?

You have searched the web to understand how the principals of layout can benefit your unique challenge, but maybe don't know quite how to proceed.

I'll be glad to share what I know about the subject, and will welcome your call or email. Tell me as much as you'd like, confidentially, about your organization's situation and objectives, timetable and budget, and I'll describe some practical actions to accomplish your scope. You will have a better understanding of the options. JPR is available to assist on layout and relocation, on your site or for some portions, remotely.


There's no cost or obligation to contact Jack Greene at 843-422-1298

Author Jack Greene has headed Industrial Engineering for ITT Latin America and RayBan Sunglasses, and worldwide IE for Abbott Labs. Now as president of JPR, Jack can work with your organization, from strategic guidance at the executive level to practical, hands-on application of techniques.

"all the different departments involved"

The following factors have an impact on layout, from personal experience. I am sure there are others that I haven't learned yet, but consider at least these when you plan a layout, or justify a raise. Good luck with both.

Building maintenance tasks
Building, floors, walls, roof, lights
Carpentry and wood
Communications, speaker, Fire alarms
Compressors / Compressed Air distribution
Control Valves
Drains, chemical, sanitary, waste water
Electrical, for building, lighting, power distribution
Emissions controls, airborne
Firefighting. EMT
Gas, burners, distribution, controls
Glass, repair
Grounds; lawn, plants, leaf removal, snow, parking, fences
Housekeeping; floors, windows, walls
Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning
Hydraulic processes and controls
Inter-department communications, radios, cell, pagers
Keys and locks
Lubrication, building operation
Maintenance Management
Maintenance supplies purchasing
Maintenance supplies storage
Metal working machines, CNC and manual
Metrology, weights and scales
Motor controls center
Oil Analysis
Painting, building
Personal tool kits
Pipefitting / plumbing; steam, waste, process piping
Pneumatic system
Power distribution, substations, buss bar
Pressure vessels certification
Railroad track, beds
Raised walkways, stairs, ladders
Roads, parking, access
Safety lockout system
Security systems
Sheet metal
Spill control
Sprinkler and fire alarm
Steam generator, steam lines, condensate, certification
Tank farms, silos, bins
Telephone and Internet wiring
Tool shop, storage
Waste disposal, solids, recycling, airborne emissions, liquid, hazardous
Waste water processing
Water; potable; process; gray, deionized, sterilized
Work order system, people and equipment
Physical equipment elsewhere, may be administered by maintenance
Communications, speaker, alarms, telephone, internet, satellite up and down links
Compressors / Compressed Air, distribution piping
High pressure air, compressors
HVAC heat exchange
Motor controls centers
Steam generator, steam lines, condensate, certification
Water treatment processes, deionizing, sterilizing ponds
Tank farms, silos, bins

Trades shop, full or a dedicated corner
Carpentry and wood
Grounds; lawn, earthmoving, plants, leaf removal, snow, parking, fences
Housekeeping; floors, windows, walls
Hydraulic processes and controls
Keys and locks
Metal working machines, CNC and manual
Metrology, weights and scales
Pipefitting / plumbing; steam, waste, process piping
Tool shop, storage

Production support
Electrical, for production equipment
Electronic, variety of devices, wired and mobile
Machines, breakdown service
Machines, preventive maintenance and lubrication
Manufacturing spare parts, change parts storage
Material handling devices
Process control instruments
Production line support, set up, change over
Vibration Analysis

Other department support
IT, business and computer equipment
IT, internal wiring installation and maintenance
IT, manufacturing process, controls and screens, sensors, readouts, closed loop reactions
Lift trucks, battery charging
Machine, breakdown service
Machines, preventive maintenance
Receiving, shipping, warehouse area and equipment
Satellite up and down links
Vehicles, internal plant or over the road
Vehicles, plant over the road

Maintenance Admin tasks
Asset management
Breathing apparatus, respirators
CAD-CAM drafting
Computerized Maintenance Management System, hardware, software, personnel