Product layout is one of the three basic production and manufacturing plant layouts. In this design, the layout of equipment and processes in the workstations are distributed around the needs of the end product. Each station is given a small task to complete in a certain sequence. When this task is completed, the work piece is passed on to the next workstation in the sequence for further assembly.
In a manufacturing assembly line set up, the work pieces in this design travel past the individual workstations on a conveyor. As the individual workstations are passed, the worker at the station completes a small task, such as adding a sticker or tightening a bolt. As these jobs are completed in turn, the completed product begins to form.
The design used in product layout differs from process layout and fixed-position layout in that the assembly line is arranged in a logical order of assembly. In some cases, this simple manufacturing layout is realized as a single manufacturing line with various workstations. The product layout design may be further broken down into smaller module lines which use several processes to complete one group task. For example, an auto manufacturer may have an assembly line module in which the car body is cleaned, primed, and painted in a single area of the plant, rather than being moved to three different workstations.
Product layout arrangements often offer some distinct advantages when compared with other plant layout designs. Using this design, manufacturers have noted increased productivity and reduced labor. In addition, because each section of the layout is specialized to its own function, the workers often become more proficient at their tasks, delivering a better overall product.
The disadvantage of product layout designs lies in the fact that the production process centers around the end product. In a single line design, the manufacturing process can become bottlenecked if one workstation is disabled. While preventative measures can be taken to avoid this problem, unplanned maintenance or training new operators for a station can result in the need to shut down the whole assembly line. Workstations ahead of the line can continue to work but downstream modules are affected by upstream production problems in product layout designs. To circumvent this, some manufacturing layouts use separate lines to further divide the work load, ensuring that one line remains operable in most circumstances.