Journal Articles

Strategic development of flexible manufacturing facilities


This article addresses the lack of formal design guidance that supports flexibility within the architectural and engineered systems of manufacturing facilities through the development of a taxonomy and associated terminology. This research performed a comparative analysis of 15 manufacturing facilities located both within the United States (73 percent of cases) and internationally (27 percent of cases). These case studies provided details on how and where flexibility was incorporated into the design of a manufacturing facility. Specific consideration was given to the primary design features that enabled a decoupling of the facility from the manufacturing process. These design features were then clustered to identify main design strategies that enable flexibility. By grouping the design features together and creating a common vocabulary, three coherent design approaches for flexible facilities were identified, each having a different potential for responding to short-term and long-term changes. These include general purpose, scalable, and dedicated facilities. By delineating three high-level strategies for early flexible facility design, this research synthesizes a conceptual understanding of flexibility with practical and implementable designs. This synthesis provides an incremental advance to a complex challenge for researchers. It also provides decision support to design teams by aiding in project definition, when flexibility is desirable. This research is primarily limited by the number of cases reviewed. With more cases, additional facility design strategies may be identified. The findings in this research allow for a basic understanding of how a flexible facility can be designed with only limited or vague information about the product and manufacturing processes contained within. The development of terminology associated with each facility design strategy provides standardization for the discussion and implementation of flexibility early in the design process. In doing so, flexible designs become easier to create and more efficient to implement. This research provides the first synthesized approach for considering flexible facility design strategies within the manufacturing sector.


Publication Date: 01/16/2020

Source: Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management


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