Transitioning from Fragmented to Purpose-Built Facilities: Challenges and Opportunities

Unlock operational efficiencies and seize opportunities in transitioning from fragmented to purpose-built facilities.

May 06, 2024
  • David Lee

The decision for a traditional manufacturing and distribution business to move from multiple older buildings to a modern purpose-built facility is a significant undertaking. While this transition presents numerous difficulties, it also offers opportunities for enhanced operational efficiency, streamlined processes, improved customer experiences, and increased automation. Below, I explore the key considerations and factors involved in successfully relocating a fragmented business into a consolidated facility.

There are of course many drivers that may get you contemplating a move which will shape the final outcome, however the fundamentals of storage, process, separation, product flow, customer experience, people movement, and building access will always be intrinsically linked.

  • Storage and processes: One of the primary challenges is consolidating and optimising storage space. Transitioning from multiple facilities to a single location allows for better inventory control, reduced stockouts, and minimised excess inventory (no double-ups). A purpose-built facility offers opportunities for customised storage solutions, such as high-density racking systems, automated inventory tracking, and improved material flow.

  • Separation of processes and workshops: Fragmented facilities often hinder (but can sometimes help) efficient operations due to the physical separation of processes. Moving to a purpose-built facility enables the strategic separation of processes, allowing departments to work cohesively. Clear separation between workshops, assembly areas, and production offices promotes synchronised operations, reduces lead times, improves quality control, and enhances overall productivity.

  • Process redevelopment and lean Six Sigma: Transitioning to a new facility provides an ideal environment (and opportunity) for process redevelopment. Adopting lean manufacturing principles and Six Sigma methodologies can help streamline workflows, reduce waste, and improve quality. A clean slate allows for the reimagining of process layouts, incorporating efficient equipment placement and work cell design to optimise production flows and minimise operator movements.

  • Customer experience development: A new purpose-built facility offers an opportunity to prioritise the customer experience. By designing the facility layout with customer requirements in mind, businesses can enhance order processing, increase response times, and improve overall customer satisfaction. This may involve creating dedicated customer interaction areas, efficient order fulfillment zones, and seamless communication channels between sales, production, and customer service teams.

  • Building access and flow: Efficient goods flow is critical in manufacturing and distribution operations. Careful consideration should be given to designing optimal building access points, loading docks, and parking facilities to expedite the movement of goods in and out of the facility. Implementing smart technology and automation, such as barcode scanning systems, RFID tags, and automated material handling equipment, can further enhance operational efficiency.

  • People movement and automation opportunities: Consolidating operations into a purpose-built facility allows for better planning of workstations, walkways, and common areas, optimising people movement. Furthermore, the move presents an excellent opportunity to introduce automation where appropriate. Automated equipment, robotics, and advanced machinery can increase productivity, reduce manual labour, and enhance safety within the facility.

Adding to these fundamentals, there are always other factors any good business should be considering; opportunities to enhance sustainability, staff amenities, safety, and financial benefits to name a few. You don’t necessarily need to relocate to consider these ideas, but they should be on your checklist, as a starter for ten:

  • Sustainability benefits: Installing electric vehicle (EV) chargers on-site promotes the use of eco-friendly transportation options (both inside and outside of the factory environment) for employees and stock, and reduces carbon emissions. Implementing daylight controls in the new premises maximises natural light utilisation, reducing the need for artificial lighting and lowering energy consumption.

  • Staff amenity benefits: Consolidating the lunchroom into a central location creates a unified space that encourages social interaction among employees and boosts overall morale. Providing outdoor spaces such as gardens, seating areas, or walking trails allows employees to enjoy breaks in a refreshing environment, promoting mental wellbeing. Offering EV charging facilities not only supports sustainability but also appeals to employees with electric vehicles, improving their overall experience at work. The increased collaboration and critical mass resulting from relocating to larger premises creates opportunities for cross-departmental synergy and innovation.

  • Safety benefits: Economies of scale in a larger facility allow for better safety control systems, such as enhanced fire suppression equipment, advanced alarm systems, and monitoring devices. The installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems throughout the premises ensures comprehensive surveillance to deter potential security threats and monitor activities. Separation of pedestrians and machinery zones through clearly marked pathways and barriers minimises the risk of accidents and enhances overall workplace safety. Proper first aid facilities, including well-stocked first aid kits and trained staff, promote a safe work environment and enables timely responses to any injuries or medical emergencies.

  • Financial benefits: The new premises can be optimised for spatial efficiencies, allowing for streamlined production layouts, improved workflow, and reduced operational costs. With consolidated operations and centralisation of resources, there are potential staffing synergies, leading to optimised workforce utilisation and better cost management. Relocating to a more strategic location can result in reduced internal management costs, transportation costs, and access to better supply chain networks.

Finally, being someone who is naturally client-centric, here are some final thoughts on ‘client experience development’ and its advantages for any business:

  • Enhanced product quality: With improved facilities and optimised production layouts, the manufacturing process can be streamlined, leading to enhanced product quality and consistency. The new premises can accommodate state-of-the-art equipment and technology, allowing for advanced manufacturing practices that result in high-quality products.

  • Increased productivity and timeliness: The spatial and operational efficiencies gained from the relocation can lead to increased productivity, enabling the manufacturing business to meet customer demands more efficiently and deliver products on time. The consolidation of resources and improved workflow can reduce turnaround times, ensuring faster order processing and shorter lead times.

  • Improved customer experience: The implementation of sustainable measures, such as EV chargers, demonstrates the company's commitment to environmental responsibility, aligning with the values of environmentally conscious customers. Building amenities like consolidated lunchrooms and outdoor spaces can serve as areas for client meetings or networking events, enhancing the overall customer experience during visits to the manufacturing premises. By prioritising safety in the new premises, clients and customers can feel confident in the company's commitment to providing a secure working environment, resulting in increased trust and satisfaction.

  • Cost-effective solutions: The financial benefits gained from the relocation, such as reduced internal management and transport costs, can potentially lead to cost savings, enabling the manufacturing business to offer competitive pricing to clients and customers. The optimisation of operational processes and supply chain networks can result in more cost-effective and efficient manufacturing, allowing the company to provide cost savings to customers.

  • Capacity for customisation and flexibility: The expanded premises can provide the manufacturing business with the capacity to offer customisation options to clients, allowing for personalised products tailored to specific customer requirements. The increased space and collaboration opportunities can also facilitate flexibility in production, enabling the business to respond quickly to changing customer demands and accommodate customisation requests.

In summary, it is my view that while the transition from fragmented facilities to a purpose-built manufacturing and distribution facility poses several challenges, it also brings numerous opportunities for operational improvements. By addressing storage, process optimisation, customer experience, and building access, businesses can unlock greater efficiencies, streamline workflows, and enhance overall productivity. Proper planning, leveraging lean principles, and utilising automation opportunities will be key to a successful transition and a more sustainable future for the business.

It will offer numerous benefits for clients and customers, including enhanced product quality, improved productivity, a better customer experience, cost-effective solutions, and increased capacity for customisation and flexibility. It also presents opportunities to create a more sustainable, employee-friendly, safe, and financially beneficial work environment.

Contact David Lee

Project and Development Services

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