|**Note: I screwed something up when posting this and it did not actually make it onto the website until 10/18/20.|
This week we’re talking about facility design. The space you do your work in has a surprisingly large impact on how you do your work, how you interact with co-workers and how work flows from one department to another. Spending time intentionally designing the macro environment you work in can drastically improve employee morale, product development, efficiency of work, effectiveness of work, output, and so much more. So what are the factors to consider when designing the layout of your facility?
The first thing to take note of is what kind of work is being done. Material handling of physical goods in a ware house, a distribution center, or manufacturing plant requires a different type of lay out than an office space that primarily deals with information, which requires yet another set of considerations from a restaurant. The former needs much larger equipment, the latter has more room for people. Here are a few different options to consider.
In manufacturing, one of the key philosophies over the last 25 years has been lean. Lean meaning to have no fat, or nothing extra. A lean facility is one that promotes a smooth operational flow from raw material all the way to finished goods. It’s outside the scope of this newsletter to dive into all the details but the big things you want to look out for when designing a Lean Environment are;
No back flows- Material should only flow in a single direction (to the extent possible) and not need to go backwards at any point
No unnecessary tools, inventory, or machinery- Everything should have a place and a purpose. Get rid of the rest
Maximize flexibility- One of the focal points of a Lean system is the ability to quickly and easily switch from producing one item to producing another. Having flexibility in the system means there is room to adapt on the fly to meet changes in demand
An office environment has some key differences between a manufacturing plant. Select examples being a need for desks, meeting rooms, computer stations, customer waiting areas, and even aesthetics. Some of the areas to look out for when designing an office environment;
Group similar workers near each other. People who will be collaborating frequently will benefit from being near each other.
The color of the walls, decorations, flooring, desks, etc. are apparent when they don’t match. Distracting environments inevitably lead to distracted work. Keeping everything clean can reduce the number of distractions. However, the flip side is that in an environment that would benefit from creativity, bright colors and intentionally mismatched items can spark the creative juices and lead to more of what you want- creativity.
Order of operations of the work. Similar to manufacturing, the information that is being processed in an office setting tends to flow in a certain direction. E.g. New lead > Outside sales > Account manager > Product team > Accounting > VP of Customer Experience. If there is a standard flow of information, keeping the relevant parties near each other to easily discuss the particulars makes output much higher. The harder it is to get something done, the longer it will take. Removing as many barriers as possible sparks an easier flow of information.
Bars and Restaurants are places we used to be able to go before the Pandemic of 2020. They served food and drinks and often hosted events like live sports, karaoke, or music. They were fun spots to hang out with your friends and family. All jokes aside, though, restaurants are champions of having poorly thought out designs. Some questions to consider if you’re opening a restaurant;
Where do guests go when there are no open tables? Waiting areas or a seating space with enough room to hold guests is key (assuming you have a restaurant with more demand than space).
How do people get in and out while it’s busy? When tables are pushed out, chairs are in the walk ways, people are up and moving, walking from door to table (or vice versa) becomes maze navigation. Having enough space for the natural expansion of tables and chairs is a must.
How do dishes flow through the restaurant? The relationship between the dining tables, the dish pit and the kitchen is crucial to consider. Dishes are necessary for serving the food on and they need to be cleaned and sanitized. The way they flow should minimize back tracking, and minimize the number of times they are picked up and put down.
The flow of food is the final piece to consider. Restaurants tend to get their input material early in the morning and have it all stocked away in refrigerators and freezers as fast as possible. Then it all gets taken out and prepped and moved to the kitchen where it is ultimately used or combined with other items. Similarly to a manufacturing line, the flow should be as lean as possible. Minimal back tracking is key.
There are certain legal pieces to consider when designing a facility. Different governing bodies like the Fire department, ADA and OSHA dictate that buildings need to meet certain minimum requirements. A few of those are;
Number of bathrooms. This is determined by the maximum number of people expected to be in the facility at a single time.
Number of Fire escapes.
Handicap accessibility. Wheel chair access, brail for the blind, elevators, handicap accessible parking spaces, and other solutions might be required to be in compliance with local and federal laws.
Number of parking spots needs to be sufficient for number of people expected to be in the building.
Lighting needs to be sufficient for the task at hand and noise needs to be below a particular limit- otherwise PPE is required.
Limits on exposure to harmful and noxious chemicals might also require PPE.
This is an incomplete list of all the things to consider when designing a new facility. The point is there are a lot of factors to weigh before jumping into it. The decision making is not black and white and there are a lot of variables that impact decision making. Walls, for example, are hard to put up and hard to remove. It should be a slow decision when considering more (or fewer) walls.
This week’s tool was inspired by Suterra. I toured their facility last week and was ocmpletely blown away. A subsidiary of the Wonderful Company, located in Bend, Oregon, Suterra is a manufacturing company that makes a pheremon based, environmentally friendly pest control. In 2015 they completed a $40MM facility renovation that was clearly inspired by Toyota and their facility design thinking. The facility has great lighting, clear separation between departments, clearly marked spaces for particular items like tables, forklifts, etc. and is beautiful to look at.
This 1 minute YouTube video is an overview of what the new facility looks like. It’s beautiful.
Given the recent shift to remote work, facility design is more micro than normal. Share your remote facilities with me on Twitter: @Quinn_Hanson22
New App I Discovered and am Loving
Sterra – a Geography App. Last week I was thinking about how little I know about the countries in Africa. Growing up in the US, Africa is basically left out of the school curriculum. Determined to find a source for learning more, I downloaded all the free geography apps I could find. After trying half a dozen different apps, Sterra stood out as being far more comprehensive. So much so that I ended up paying the full $1.99 to remove the ads. I’ve clocked in nearly 5 hours on the app playing geography games and feel confident already in how much I’ve learned. The app has a ton of quizzes about countries, capitals, regions, rivers, maps, and much more. It’s easy to use and I’ve found it to be a great teaching tool. I’d highly recommend anyone that is interested in geography to download the app.
iOS App Android App
Best Tweet of the Week
This week I’m cheating and using an entire thread of greatness. It came from Patrick O’Shaughnessy. He created a conversation around “Hard to copy” business features. Things that could likely not be duplicated with lots of money and effort. See the whole thread here.
Some of the best responses:
Tesla’s never ending good will and access to capital
The Yankees legacy as a sports franchise
Google’s user data
Multi-generational businesses like Nintendo where parents get their children hooked on the business / brand early in life
Indian Railways (the company that owns, builds, and operates all the rail lines in India
Costco’s simplicity and ability to avoid complexity creep
Photo of the Week
A few weeks back there was an unexpected explosion at a port in Beirut. The cause of the explosion is thought to be old chemicals that have gone bad. No one seems to know who they belong to or what was going on. This is the aftermath of the explosion. Source.
Article of the Week
Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System
By Donella Meadows
This is a bit of a longer article but it’s worth every second to read it. It’s about the highest leverage point in a system to take advantage of momentum and create change. It discusses how we tend to be good at identify leverage points, but then do the WRONG thing with them. See below for examples and takeaways;
Big takeaways for me:
Jay Forrester of MIT found that the intuitive response of “More Economic Growth” that is often touted by governments around the world is the wrong way to utilize growth to curb disasters and downsides of modern life. Instead of pushing for more growth to, say, deal with the after math of a drought, we should focus on less growth or even negative growth (aka not growing).
“The “strength” of a negative loop — its ability to keep its appointed stock at or near its goal — depends on the combination of all its parameters and links — the accuracy and rapidity of monitoring, the quickness and power of response, the directness and size of corrective flows. Sometimes there are leverage points here. Take markets, for example, the negative feedback systems that are all but worshiped by economists — and they can indeed be marvels of self-correction, as prices vary to moderate supply and demand and keep them in balance. The more the price — the central piece of information signaling both producers and consumers — is kept clear, unambiguous, timely, and truthful, the more smoothly markets will operate. Prices that reflect full costs will tell consumers how much they can actually afford and will reward efficient producers. Companies and governments are fatally attracted to the price leverage point, of course, all of them determinedly pushing it in the wrong direction with subsidies, fixes, externalities, taxes, and other forms of confusion.”
And, Meadows’ list of leverage points; (in increasing order of effectiveness)
12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards).
11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows.
10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures).
9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change.
8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against.
7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information).
5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints).
4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure.
3. The goals of the system.
2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises.
1. The power to transcend paradigms.For a full explanation of the twelve leverage points, check out her article.