What You Need to Consider Before Relocating Your Manufacturing Plant

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Most of us tend to hope that our latest move to a new home or a new company facility is the last one we’ll have to make. But if you represent a manufacturing organization, the process of relocating to a new campus can seem especially overwhelming and frustrating.

However, with the right plan in place before the first crate gets packed, your manufacturing company and everybody under its roof can take part in a smooth transition and get back up to speed before you know it. Here’s a quick look at four of the biggest steps in the process and what you should know about each one.

Safely Moving Equipment

There’s always a chance of losing something or incurring damage to your equipment during a move. One of the tasks that falls to managers overseeing a manufacturing plant relocation is ensuring the company’s property (plus any clients’ or vendors’ onside property) be properly tagged and tracked before, during and after the move.

Barcode, RFID and NFC labels and tags are more affordable than ever and can help you achieve peace of mind through asset tracking. It’s an ally not just while everything’s in transition, either, but also after things get settled again. The right solution could help you bring order and oversight to even thousands of physical assets at once.

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Of course, there will also likely be times when some of your equipment and other assets won’t be ready for the transition right away or at the same time. In cases like these, it makes sense to find a secondary location where you can store those items safely. This means lowering their risk of being misplaced or even stolen in what is probably going to be a complicated maneuver with lots of people and moving parts.

Look closely at the options in your area and your needs. Some storage facilities feature cranes that can lift up to 100 tons of material or machinery at once, meaning even the largest-scale manufacturing concerns can find a partner out there to help them store their assets in the interim.

Planning and Installing the New Plant Layout

There’s only one thing that’s more potentially frustrating than moving to a new facility: having to set everything up a second time in your new location because you didn’t have a strong concept in mind beforehand or didn’t bother communicating well about it with your team.

Manufacturing can be a complicated process with several divisions and teams to worry about. Each one might have its own set of workflows to worry about, including physical workstation setups that they’ve perfected over time to facilitate smooth operations. Redesigning your facility is a chance to consider a “cell” layout for each separate workflow and to achieve one-piece flow, which makes your operation both smoother and more predictable after you’re up and running again.

Don’t just assemble a plan in a boardroom and assume it’s going to work out. This is one of the steps of the process where you’ll want to work closely with the people “on the ground” doing the daily work in your manufacturing processes. Take time to ask them:

  • If there are any improvements they’d like to see concerning the storage and accessibility of their tools and equipment.
  • Whether the existing position of their workstations is conducive to collaboration with other members of their team and minimizes the likelihood of unfinished works-in-progress piling up.
  • If there have been times in the past where the layout of, or distance between, their department and the rest of the facility resulted in work stoppages or bottlenecks. When workpieces have to change hands, for example, safety and productivity become issues when the distance is great or it must cross paths with the other work being done.

This might be the most collaborative step in this list. Depending on how much time and thought you spend on it, it can even fuel your future commitment to lean manufacturing by streamlining everything from material storage to finished product handling.

Testing and Auditing

You know as well as anybody that quality control in manufacturing relies on careful tool calibration and fine-tuned operator settings for optimal results. After your move is complete and you’ve set up your operations again under your new roof, the time has come to perform testing and auditing procedures.

Work with your engineers and technicians to draw up a list of testing protocols or re-calibrations that will have to be performed before your equipment is powered up again.

This isn’t merely a good idea for internal quality control, either. Some industries, including medical device, aerospace and automotive parts manufacturing, require a First Article Inspection Report, or “FAIR.” This is a battery of testing protocols performed on the first production run to ascertain whether tolerances and quality control are still intact.

It’s especially important in the context of relocating a major production facility because, as we’ve discussed, some of your equipment might have been jarred out of proper calibration or possibly even damaged while en route. One of the primary objectives of any facility relocation is ensuring the parties that depend on you, including partners downstream in the supply chain as well as end-users, don’t have any reason to fear there’s been a lapse in quality or attention to detail. Furnishing FAIR documents and completing other auditing processes is one way to make sure they don’t.

Last Step: The Final Review

The last thing on your agenda is the final review. This won’t necessarily be a standardized process. You occupy a unique industry niche, which means the steps required for your move won’t necessarily reflect what other companies have gone through in the past.

For your final review, sit with your team leaders and go over the results, including what you found during testing and auditing. Are there any other action items remaining at this stage? Any equipment still in storage? Have the goals of your move been realized?

You aren’t making this transition arbitrarily and without lots of planning and thought. If something hasn’t happened precisely as you envisioned, or somebody on your team is calling out further opportunities to improve your new location, this is the time to set it right. If you do, your move becomes less a stumbling block and more an opportunity to build a strong foundation upon which the future of your company can rest.

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