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18-01-2018 | Production + Production Technology | News | Article

A Factory Layout at the Push of a Button

Nadine Winkelmann
1:30 min reading time

Scientists from Hanover, Germany, are currently developing a software tool that arranges machines, storage areas and offices optimally, enabling companies to not only save time and money but achieve better results than with manual planning.

Planning a new factory or redesigning a production site is very costly. Even planning the layout, i.e. arranging all the machines, warehouses and offices in the best possible manner, is very time-consuming and is usually done manually. Although computer-generated factory layouts are already possible, optimal results cannot be achieved with them yet. "With previous methods, factory layouts can only be optimised in a very one-sided manner," says Paul Aurich, project engineer at the Institut für Integrierte Produktion Hannover (IPH). Optimisation is usually limited to transport intensity, i.e. the factory areas are arranged in such a way as to keep distances as short as possible. Other aspects would be ignored in the process. "This can result in the meeting room being within earshot of a noisy milling machine, or manual assembly being placed in the darkest corner of the factory," Aurich says. 

In the research project "MeFaP", the IPH intends to develop an integrated method for automated layout planning by the end of 2019. The new software should factor in several aspects into the layout planning and hence create practical factory layouts. Compared to manual planning, this would save a lot of time, but with similarly good or even better results. The user must first enter the so-called room log into the software, i.e. a detailed inventory of the factory with all the machines, storage areas, offices and meeting rooms. This data has to be recorded in great detail for every factory planning project and provides the basis for manual planning in any case. The user can then determine which criteria they consider the most important. The software subsequently generates many different factory layouts and evaluates them according to the previously defined criteria. The IPH has already developed software for automated factory evaluation as part of the previous project "QuamFaB". The researchers intend to use these algorithms to select the best variants from the automatically generated layouts.

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