Process or Functional Layout | Features, Advantages, Disadvantages

What is Process or Functional Layout?

A process layout is based on the nature of the process through which the product should move in the course of manufacture. Process layout is effected by way of arranging similar operations in a particular place. So under process layout, similar processes or equipment are grouped together.

These groupings are called departments or shops. Each such group constitutes a distinct unit. For instance, Milling Department, Drilling Department, Casting Department etc. Under this type of layout, the departments are divided according to their functions and the product is divided according to the sequences of operations to be performed on it.

The operations performed in each department are allotted to particular machines on the basis of the capability of the machine to perform that operation, the capacity required, the precision required, the availability of the machine and so on. Process layout is suitable for non-repetitive or intermittent type of production where special orders are handled e.g. ship-building.

Process layout is particularly designed for industries producing goods like furniture, tools etc. Besides, this type of layout is suitable only for manufacturing articles in small quantities.

Examples of Process Layout

Example 1

Process Layout
Process Layout

Example 2

Process Layout - Example
Process Layout

Features of Process Layout

For the proper understanding of the concept of process layout, it is essential for the students to have a clear-cut idea about its features. As observed by Harold T.Amerine and S.Oliver, the features of process layout can be summarized as follows:

1. Requirement of a skilled labour force having the capacity to do a variety of operations on a machine.

2. Frequent movement of inventories between operations and departments.

3. Many orders in process at any time.

4. Extensive space of storage in departments for unprocessed inventories.

5. Sufficient storage space around machines.

6. High inventories of in-process materials.

7. A lack of mechanical pacing of work.

8. Much scheduling of and careful control of materials in process.

9. General purpose materials handling equipment.

It should be remembered that some of the features are the merits of the process layout, while some on the other hand, are their demerits also.

Advantages of Process Layout

The principal advantages of a process layout can be stated as indicated below:

1. Lesser Investment in Machines and Equipment

Under the process layout, machines and equipment are not passed on to any set of sequence of operation. So variety of products in required standard can be produced without any duplication of machines in a process layout. Thus, a lesser amount of capital is enough as the machines are utilized to their maximum capacity.

2. Lower Overhead Costs

Since the initial capital investment is comparatively low in, risks of investments are reduced to a greater extent. Besides, there is no duplication of machines in process layout. Since the operations are similar even a single operator can operate and control a number of machines. Hence, overhead costs per unit will tend to be lower.

3. Effective Supervision

Another important merit of process layout is effective use of specialized abilities of supervisors. Only a limited range of machine operations in the respective departments are assigned to the foreman and in course of time, he shall become highly proficient in planning, directing and controlling the operations assigned to the department, which is under his charge.

4. Maximum Use of Machines

There is maximum utilization of machines, as a machine is not tied to a particular product in a layout by process. Even if the particular product is not produced the machine can be engaged for the manufacture of other products.

5. Greater Flexibility

Each machine can perform a wide range of similar operations. So if a machine breaks down, the same operation can be performed by other machines in the same department or by a similar machine in another department. Hence, there is greater flexibility of the production process in process layout.

6. Less interruption in Work Schedules

Since each department is having a number of machines and tools, when a machine breaks down, the work can be completed with the help of another machine. Therefore, failure of one machine will not affect the work schedule in a process layout.

7. Possibility of Division of Labour and Specialization

There is maximum utilization of the skill and talent of the workers in process layout because the work is divided into different parts and each department is allotted with a particular part of the work. As a result, specialization and division of labour are encouraged.

Disadvantages of Process Layout

In spite of the various advantages, process layout suffers from the following demerits:

1. Larger Floor Area

Larger floor space is required for process layout in order to install machine and locate different departments. As the floor area required would be large, maximum utilization of the available floor space is not possible.

2. High Costs of Handling

There would be higher costs of handling materials in process layout due to routine work of various departments and the greater distances over which jobs have to move. Further, materials handling cannot be mechanized easily because the definite channels ensure the flow of materials in serial order.

3. More Accumulation of Work

Since the entire work-in-process should be processed by a machine before it can be passed on to the next operation, there is more accumulation of work-in-process in various departments.

4. Longer Time for Processing

Production process will take a long time for completing the job because each job has to pass on from one department to another in process layout. Greater time is needed to be spent on loading the machine after having collected the work from the preceding department.

5. Frequency of Inspection

Under the process layout the same production department is handling different products. So the inspection is frequently needed before passing of the work to the successive operation in another department. Consequently, the inspection work will become difficult and inefficient.

6. Difficulty in Production Control

Production control is extremely difficult in process layout. Further, it is more costly. As a result, there would be higher cost of clerical work for production control.