Facility Layout using Lean

This articles discusses the benefits of warehouse design using simple lean tools and techniques. It is important before you have built your facility to have thought through the process and potential areas of cost increase.

The example below is taken from a facility in Holland. It shows several cross-over points and a disconnect between the different spaces. This leads to confusion, an increase in costs, inability to deliver the product on time and poor expansion planning.


Applying lean tools and techniques during the design process can help get the most out of the space available. In recent weeks, we have been doing just that for a facility in Nairobi. By breaking down the manufacturing processes, we were able to identify process requirements, storage requirements, uncover organisational constraints and reduce non-value adding activities (waste).

Here are some of the benefits of doing this:

  1. Good understanding of dependencies in production process
  2. Most efficient use of space.
  3. Better planning to allow for expansion
  4. Cost effective layout of the facility by reduction of operating costs.
  5. Easy access and protection of materials and equipment.
  6. Improved production floor safety.
  7. Improved Ergonomics of the workplace.

The typical forms of waste to look out for include:


Transportation of raw materials, work in progress and finished goods costs money. Cost of the forklift, the driver’s salary and maintenance costs are just some of the savings when transportation is reduced. Furthermore, reducing excessive transportation reduces safety risks which could have led to a higher costs. 

Inventory Build-Up

Inventory of materials is another waste generating form commonly seen in factories. Many factories because of poor layouts have to ensure that large piles of raw materials or work-in-progress are placed close to the machines to account for forklift breakdowns or shared resources. Subsequently, this leads to large piles of finished goods at the machine output. Therefore, when planning a facility look to reduce material build up given the constraints like night shift, security issues etc.


Excessive motion of your staff or machines is another form of waste. This could be excessive walking, bending or stretching. It also creates room for error during handling of either work in progress or finished goods. In some cases, this may have a direct impact in the defect rate at  your facility. Limiting motion in the factory will also influence how you resource your production and manage the communication between operators.


Long waiting times for work-in-progress or finished goods has a direct impact on the ability for your facility to meet customer delivery times. For example, having only one lift to serve different floors creates waiting as it take time to load, lift and off-load. By introducing a continuous flow system in the facility, this will drastically reduce waiting time.

These are just a few of the examples of how you can improve layouts.

If you are looking to save costs, plan for expansion and get it right before you have set everything in stone? Drop us an email at info@deltablade.co.uk