Written by Howie Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL

Optimizing Print Shop Layout

Moving your equipment around to increase the efficiency of your plant is often referred to as changing the physical plant layout. It’s not typically a common thing companies think about, which may be a mistake. However there are often two triggering events which make people consider changing their equipment and their workflow.

The most obvious reason is when you move to a new location with more space. During the move process, you often think, “I know we’re not as efficient as we could be, so let’s move things around in a way that makes more sense.” The other motivating factor is when a company discovers that their productivity is low and the root cause is their plant layout, because it impacts raw material storage, finished goods storage, or the path the materials travel as it goes through the plant.

I recently had the opportunity to work with a company that was moving from a small facility to a much larger one. Everyone has their own way of thinking about how to move equipment. The process I use in looking at plant layouts starts by defining different rough layouts and having discussions of the pros and cons of each. It’s important to understand that there is not one best floor plan; each floor plan has advantages and disadvantages. Once the rough layout is agreed to, the more detailed layout begins which includes placing the equipment in specific locations.

One of the questions that often comes up in the rough layout phase is whether you can predict how much more efficient one layout will be over another. The answer is both yes and no. No, it’s impossible to predict with any accuracy how much more productive one layout is over another. On the other hand, anyone who has been involved in a reorganization of an existing plant layout can talk about the productivity before and the productivity after the reorganization, and the reason why it worked in that particular site.

An optimized workflow results in increased productivity and decreases in wasted materials and time. Typically, the difference between an optimized workflow and an inefficient workflow can be observed and measured in three ways: productivity/time (products/hour), material waste (rework) or time loss.

The difference between a good plant layout or workflow and an inefficient one is somewhere between 12% and 25% greater productivity. This can be measured in several different ways. I’ve seen increases from an improved workflow such as: 3-4 more offset jobs/shift/press, 10-20% more digital sheets printed/shift/machine, 5-10% more large format posters/shift/ machine, and 4-8 hours of less overtime/staff/week.

Do you feel that you are as productive as the most productive companies? Have you ever measured and compared your productivity? Is it possible that one of the reasons why you’re not as productive is because you work with an inefficient plant layout? Did you know that reorganizing your plant layout is the least expensive way to increase productivity?


Howie Fenton is a consultant and business advisor at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity, and adding digital and value services through customer research. For more information click here.