June 22, 2015
New Facility? Space Allocation 101
Whether you are moving into a new facility, upgrading your current one, or building a whole new property from scratch, one of the most important factors to consider during the initial phase (including budgeting) is space allocation. How much space is needed for each department? Where will equipment be placed? These and more are basic space allocation questions every facility manager should be prepared to ask and plan for.
As a facility manager or maintenance supervisor in the reliability industry, you no doubt know well the importance of space allocation in a building. After all, everything has its place. Unfortunately, just as with a monetary budget, space budgets are limited as well, and inevitably, we never have as much space as we want. In fact, we often do not have as much square footage as we need. That is where space allocation planning comes into play.
Planning is key when deciding where every piece of equipment will go. Having enough room for the equipment to rest and operate is only part of the equation: We also have to consider the space required for workers to operate the machinery, maintain it, and even just walk around it. If there is not a clear workspace and walkway, there can be traffic jams and worker safety issues. It can also affect production rates as well. All of these are big no-nos and things that must be factored into the space allocation equation.
Speaking of safety, fire hazards are another concern. If a fire breaks out, you need clear exit paths and enough space for employees to evacuate. You also need room for rescue teams to put out the fire, spots for fire extinguishers and fire alarms, and proper ventilation systems, all of which require space you may not normally think about.
In addition, certain machines tend to throw off a lot of heat and should never be placed next to flammable chemicals or materials. Be sure you plan how much space is needed between walls and other equipment to avoid a fire hazard. The same can be said for hazardous chemicals, too. In fact, you will want a specific place to store any chemicals and chemical cleanup materials as well.
Another concern that is not always on the immediate agenda of facility managers is creature comforts for employees. That isn't to say that facility managers do not care about this. Reliability managers tend to think of equipment or customers naturally. However, carving out some of your property for break rooms and bathrooms is also pivotal, as is planning the best place for them. The farther an employee has to travel to a restroom, the longer the break will be. Putting a break room too close to workspace makes it less relaxing for employees; it should be a place where they can unwind and put work behind them for a while.
If you employ a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), and hopefully you are at this point, it can make the space allocation process even easier, as it makes it easier to get an overall picture of your assets and equipment. It can also help you save on space, as you can store documents and other important information directly in your system, cutting down on the wasted square footage. Finally, a CMMS makes it so you can easily track your spare parts and replacement pieces, meaning you can centralize their location and keep the space that you do have tidy!