On Brownfield Layout Planning
Licentiatavhandling, 2019

As manufacturing companies strive to increase productivity and decrease waste, to stay competitive in an increasingly global and digitalised context, their production system must improve. Improvements to production systems can be achieved in many ways, including increased levels of automation, improved product and process flows and improved scheduling. Changes to the production system often also imply the need to redesign it. This is often done within a project structure, as it is a unique and temporary endeavour. Layout planning is a part of the production system design process in which the positions of workstations, machines, and other parts of the system are decided. This can have a major impact on the overall efficiency of operations.

In an industrial setting, factory layout planning is often carried out in brownfield settings, where investment requires changes to areas of the facility already in use. Because every facility and production system is unique, so is each factory layout planning project. They all have different conditions, knowledge, availability and quality of data, lead-times, driving forces and many other factors. Classifying brownfield factory layout planning as a wicked problem; any solution which assumes existing data is both accurate and sufficient to deliver an optimal answer will fail when implemented, as real layout needs to be adapted to a multitude of different factors, requirements and restrictions during development. These factors are not fully understood until the problem is being solved.

The long-term vision of this thesis is to reduce the number and severity of errors in the area of brownfield factory layout planning in the manufacturing industry. Its aims are formulated as a step towards realising the long-term vision of identifying how the research community has handled brownfield factory layout planning and what challenges operational stakeholders encounter during a brownfield factory layout planning process. These aims are addressed using mixed-methods research applied in four different industrial studies; their results are combined and presented in this thesis.

The findings show that a large portion of the factory layout planning conducted in industries is in the brownfield setting and most often on parts of facilities. This allows planners to make the most of what already exists, for the sake of economic and environmental sustainability. On the other hand, the research community has focused more on layout planning solutions for full facilities and with little involvement of expert users. Involving expert users and effective utilisation of new technologies has shown promise in taming the wicked problem aspects of brownfield factory layout planning. A new mindset and new approach to brownfield factory layout planning could be the start of an improved process with lower risk and improved solutions, thus yielding higher stakeholder satisfaction.

factory layout planning

Production systems


Industry 4.0

decision support

manufacturing systems

Virtual Development Laboratory (VDL), Chalmers tvärgata 4C
Opponent: Prof. Christoph Laroque, Faculty of Economics, Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau, Germany


Daniel Nåfors

Chalmers, Industri- och materialvetenskap, Produktionssystem

Realistic virtual models for factory layout planning

Proceedings of the 2017 Winter Simulation Conference,; (2017)p. 3976-3987

Paper i proceeding

A stepwise implementation of the virtual factory in manufacturing industry

Proceedings - Winter Simulation Conference,; Vol. 2018-December(2019)p. 3229-3240

Paper i proceeding

Nåfors, D., Berglund, J., and Johansson, B. Brownfield Factory Layout Planning: The Applicability Gap

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Virtual Development Laboratory (VDL), Chalmers tvärgata 4C

Opponent: Prof. Christoph Laroque, Faculty of Economics, Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau, Germany

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