Layout redesigning and rebalancing of operations for social distancing

Layout redesigning and rebalancing of operations for social distancing

Toyota has always been an inspiration to the industrial world, especially when there has been a crisis in the Business world/ community. The impact of COVID 19 situation now is no longer different from the other global crisis that the world had seen before. The financial and labour crisis that emerged in Japanese industries, just after world war II in 1945 was a reflection point.  Japanese economy suffered due to lack of raw materials and a short supply of goods. Toyota’s financial situation deteriorated, and soon they were not meeting payroll and subsequently Toyota labour union went on strike in 1949. 

This crisis was an inspiration to Mr Ohno, who then went on to develop the Toyota Production System (TPS) in the early 1950s.  Experimenting at the Toyota shop floor, Mr Ohno along with Mr Shingo developed key concepts of Takt Time, Flow, Standardized work procedure, single minute exchange of dies and pull systems and most importantly the Toyota people system. The measures they introduced at that time in response to the crisis, lead to new Paradigms and changes that have last even to this day within Toyota plants around the world. 

Many of us thought COVID 19 pandemic will end in a few months, and life will go back to normal. The truth is, many aspects of our society and the business, never will go back to normal, there is for sure some fundamental shift. Companies which understand and act on this new normal will have many opportunities, not only survival and but growth.

Manufacturing companies will experience (some companies are already witnessing) an unprecedented level of supply chain disturbances in terms of delayed material supply, short supply, and non-availability of material, and change in demand and inflexible supply chains. This will have a huge impact on the manufacturing floors and meeting customer demand.

Apart from supply issues, challenges such as re-layout of the shop floor with social distancing (6ft distance between a person to person), providing a point of use cleaning supplies (own hand-sanitizer and extra cleaning supplies), teaching employees proper hand wash methods, providing proper PPE (face mask & face shield) and creating a safe work FLOW without direct exposure to people are additional challenges.

KAIZEN™ Lean Factory Design (LFD) concept is a proven technique & countermeasure to re-design manufacturing layout and re-balancing of operations with the prevention of 3Mus (muda, Mura Muri). Post-COVID 19, factory layouts will need an overhaul with a new challenge at hand like Social distancing etc. Some of the changes which we are suggesting can be tried and applied, which is part of our LFD approach.

1. Make operator stations spaced out to ensure operators maintain 6ft distance between them.

2. The line may be slowed down, which may lead to the construction of a few extra lines to meet the Takt Time. 

3. Wherever operators cannot maintain at least 6ft distance, place Plexiglas between them to avoid direct exposure.

4. If Plexiglas cannot be placed between the stations, then operators must wear proper PPE (face mask and face shield) to avoid direct exposure.

5. Determine an actual number of operators needed, dividing total manual cycle time by Takt time.

6. Apply spaghetti technique to analyze operators and material movements to optimize the distance travelled.

7. Rebalance the line through Yamazumi chart with an aim to a reduced team member in the line.

8. Identify the stations that are not fully utilized, move away from the line to promote social distancing.

9. Possibility to move some of the NVA activities away from the line.

10. Create the new standardized work procedure using

a. Time observation sheet

b. Process capacity sheet

c. Standard work combination sheet

d. Standard worksheet

11. Lines must be marked with a walking path and cross over points, to ensure the safety of operators and avoid direct exposure.

12. Create a space for the team leader to stand and respond to any line issues. (designated add-on response position)

13. Workstations must have marked 6ft distance demarcation between the stations. 

14. Create Visual floor marking circles to maintain social distancing during Daily KAIZEN™ meetings.

15. Add floor markings in all high queue areas such as Cafeteria, water coolers, and restrooms etc.

Organizations can be better prepared to make their workplace ready for COVID 19 by adopting above workplace guidelines from social distancing standpoint. Kaizen Institute can support organizations both through virtual and onsite coaching during post-COVID-19.

In conclusion, it is important to adopt changes by adjusting to daily work. By changing the layouts, physical FLOW and having new visual standards (position and placemarks, floor line etc) COVID requirements can be “built into” the workplace and this will benefit both work efficiency and personnel safety. 


Venkatesh Pandarinathan, Senior Consultant at Kaizen Institute

About Kaizen Institute

Kaizen Institute is the original and premier provider of KAIZEN™ services of Change Management, Business Excellence, Operational Excellence and Lean.

We support companies of all sizes in all market segments, providing them with a sustainable, competitive advantage. Our Vision is Improving the world with Everyone, Everywhere, Every Day – The KAIZEN™ Way. “KAIZEN™ means Change for the better.”

Kaizen Institute is a global organization which provides consulting and training services to companies represented in Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. We are currently operating in 60+ Countries for 35 years.

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