Factory design: 5 mistakes you should avoid at all costs

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. How to counteract Murphy’s law through good design.

Even the smallest mistakes at the beginning of the design phase can make factory design processes inefficient and have a huge impact on the profitability of the factory. In the worst case, they can delay commissioning and cause considerable extra expense.

Murphy’s Law

In factory design, a seemingly small cause can quickly lead to major adverse effects. Murphy’s law states: “Everything that can go wrong will go wrong”, and often this is exactly what happens. It is therefore advisable to consider all conceivable scenarios at the start of the factory design process in order to effectively counteract Murphy’s Law.

Traditional factory design must reinvent itself

The traditional approach to factory design systematically divides the design process into several goal-oriented phases, ranging from the initial idea to the commissioning of production, and is carried out with the help of various tools and methods. Due to the many components that need to be taken into account during factory design, ways must therefore be found to minimise design complexity.

Against the backdrop of global competition, and the constant shortening of product life cycles with an ever increasing diversity of variants, additional goals such as adaptability, sustainability and innovation must also be taken into account. The current discussion on climate change has also given high priority to environmental protection and the conservation of resources. [1]

[1] Vergl. Wikipedia: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabrikplanung

Traditional factory design must reinvent itself
5 mistakes you should avoid at all costs in factory design

Everything that can go wrong…

The traditional approach determines the framework for factory design. But even small things can cause Murphy’s Law to strike. For example, if ventilation duct paths have been planned without taking other data into account, this can lead to a factory having to be adjusted on-site during construction. This in turn leads to longer construction times and an unexpected increase in costs. This can easily happen if the design is only created in 2D, because spatial collisions can easily be overlooked. This type of problem can be effectively counteracted by consciously avoiding common mistakes to ensure the factory design becomes a well thought-out success story.

What are the most common mistakes in factory design?

Mistake #1: Not using 3D design

Often the layout of a factory is performed using a 2D CAD system. Although 2D design has its advantages, it does not have the same level of detail as 3D modelling which also takes height into account and thus offers the designer more realism. If the design is created entirely in 2D, it is difficult to detect spatial collisions. In addition, the coordination of individual work areas is very cumbersome. This means that mistakes may be overlooked, which can have expensive consequences on the construction site where downtime needs to be avoided at all costs. Major projects have historically shown how difficult and expensive it can be to correct mistakes afterwards.
For factory design projects, multi-disciplinary 3D design is the ideal solution. The 3D representation not only increases transparency for all stakeholders, but also leads to a significant increase in interdisciplinary data communication in both 2D and 3D. Another advantage that should not be overlooked is that a 3D-based presentation is far more convincing, especially for non-technical people.
Factory design Mistake #1: Not using 3D design
“This guide will put you on the path to successful factory design. For further food for thought and comprehensive information on the subject of factory design, please visit the CAD Schroer website.”
Factory design Mistake #2: Not re-using existing designs

Mistake #2: Not re-using existing designs

Existing design data is a valuable asset and should therefore be re-used in new designs where appropriate. This helps to avoids mistakes and can save a lot of time in the design phase. It is often perceived that 2D drawings of existing factories are not suitable for use in a new 3D design, and that existing 3D models of large machines cannot be imported into an entire 3D factory layout due to their data size. In practice it comes down to having the right CAD software to achieve the optimal integration of 2D with 3D. Modern factory design systems can handle designs with thousands of components in them and also simplify complex models where necessary during import. They can even convert 2D factory building plans into 3D models. In this way, existing design data can be meaningfully and sustainably re-used, and form the basis for the successful design of future factories.

Mistake #3: Not using standard catalogues

Modelling every single component in a factory from scratch not only sounds like a lot of work – it is actually an extremely inefficient way to design a factory. Fortunately, the use of standard catalogues offers a tremendous advantage. Factory design systems often include a wide range of standard catalogues that typically contain thousands of parts, from which designers can select the required components. For example, catalogues for building design containing doors and windows, or catalogues for laying out conveyors, racking, pipework, steelwork, ducting and cable trays etc., In addition, the catalogues are often parametric making them easy to extend for custom sizes with just a few clicks. This makes the task of laying out a factory very quick and easy compared to manual modelling.
Factory design Mistake #3: Not using standard catalogues
Conveyors and racking systems can simply be selected and configured in height, width or type before placement. Such an approach using standard catalogues offers enormous time savings, because each part does not have to be individually modelled from scratch.

Mistake #4: Not testing the design to ensure quality

By using a modern factory design system, a high level of quality can be assured at every step in the design process. Consistency checking tools ensure parts will fit together as required. Built-in collision detection ensures that components will not clash with each other, thereby preventing long delays and unexpected alteration costs during construction. Detailed parts lists can also be automatically generated from the design, and can include special parts where specified. This saves both time and helps to guarantee accuracy at the procurement stage, especially compared to manual parts-listing methods. Using this type of approach for factory layout substantially benefits downstream processes, not only by helping to ensure that the factory can be built “right first time”, but also for any future alterations and improvements.
Factory design Mistake #4: Not testing the design to ensure quality
Factory design Mistake #5: Too little communication between the project team and customers

Mistake #5: Too little communication between the project team and customers

Modern factory design software facilitates communication both inside and outside of the project team due to its 3D representation. It is much easier for technical and non-technical staff to review and discuss a design in 3D. For example, when presenting design concepts to decision-makers at the start of the design process, or later on when planning maintenance activities with the Engineering team. Important details can be quickly and precisely shared with a 3D representation. An interactive 3D viewer enables one to become “immersed” in the design. For presentation purposes, a complete virtual walkthrough of the factory layout can also be performed interactively, or alternatively recorded to video. For example, in a bottling plant, the entire production process can be viewed real-time from the perspective of a single bottle as it moves along the production line. This high level of communication can ensure timely feedback from all project stakeholders, which can then be incorporated into the design process.

Avoiding mistakes in factory design – but how?

The only way to overcome Murphy’s Law is to be proactive. By consciously avoiding errors and taking appropriate countermeasures, many potential disasters can be avoided. M4 PLANT is a modern, integrated CAD system that meets all the requirements for large-scale factory design. The software offers size-independent design, whereby buildings, machinery and conveyor lines of any type and size can be assembled in 3D. The simple user interface and comprehensive data interfaces give a rapid start and also accelerate the design process. As a result, projects can be completed even faster, regardless of size, and with a very high level of quality from the very first step.

Which software for integrated factory design?

CAD Schroer offers a software package specially developed for factory design. It contains all the modules necessary to meet even the most demanding challenges. Starting with factory design in both 2D and 3D, modules are also provided for designing conveyor layouts, racking, steelwork, ducting, cable routes and much more. When the 3D design is complete, 2D drawings can be generated directly from the model making life easy for the designer. In addition, the software can be used to perform interactive 3D walkthroughs and generate videos. The entire factory design can also be exported for viewing in virtual and augmented reality. The factory design package is available directly from the manufacturer from €167 per month and can be trialled free of charge beforehand.

Trial version with support

The engineering software developer offers a free 30-day trial of M4 PLANT. Video tutorials and online technical support are also provided during the trial enabling users to get quickly started and evaluate the software for their own specific applications.
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