Flexible Facility Development for Manufacturing and Life Sciences

RT-MLS-01 Topic Summary


Project teams in the manufacturing and life sciences sector must contend with significant uncertainty. Fluctuating market demand and evolving manufacturing technologies can have substantial cost and time-to-market implications for the development of new facilities. Research Team MLS-01 (RT-MLS-01) aimed to address this situation by to creating a structured approach for developing flexible, long lead facilities that project teams can operate without full knowledge of the facility requirements or, potentially, the product manufacturing process.

RT-MLS-01 examined the current state of flexible facility development by conducting a literature survey, undertaking an in-depth review of 15 case study projects, and interviewing members of CII’s Manufacturing and Life Sciences Sector Committee (MLS). The team then identified decision points within the feasibility and conceptual design phases of the capital project development process, where the strategic consideration of flexibility will have the greatest impact. For each decision point, the researchers developed, piloted, and summarized a unique implementation tool. Together, these tools form the Manufacturing Facility Flexibility Decision Support Suite, a resource that provides an objective, fact-based means of managing and adapting to project uncertainty.

The Manufacturing Facility Flexibility Decision Support Suite offers the following benefits to users developing a new flexible facility:

  • It identifies which types of uncertainty to expect and consider in the design.
  • It provides a quantitative approach to evaluating the costs vs. the benefits of different levels of flexibility.
  • It allows the project team to evaluate options and move forward quickly, reducing time to market.
  • It results in a facility that does not become a limiting factor due to changes in product, process, or demand: before, during, or after construction.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Flexibility in the Front End Planning Process

RT-MLS-01 analyzed CII’s existing tools and identified which tools could support the development of a flexible facility. Along with the suite of new tools proposed by this research, the team created a general process map that identifies when each tool should be used in the existing FEL process. This process map allows users to navigate the vast array of CII tools that can assist in flexible facility development.
Reference: (FR-MLS-01)

2 : Implementation Tool #1: Strategy Selection Guide

The first tool in the suite is the Strategy Selection Guide. By drawing on research literature and case study data, the team used statistical clustering methods to identify common approaches to flexibility and associate them with specific facility design features, exclusive of the manufacturing process. The team found that each design feature was often designed with capacity beyond what was strictly necessary to ensure that the facility itself would not become a limiting factor of the manufacturing process. The clustering revealed three well-defined approaches to facility development, and the Strategy Selection Guide enabled users to select among these approaches:

  1. Dedicated: Optimized for a single product, process, and capacity
  2. Scalable: Facility starts small but can increase in volume easily and rapidly in the future
  3. General Purpose: Facility is constructed with large, open floor space or as a shell

The Strategy Selection Guide uses a Choosing-by-Advantages worksheet (in Microsoft Excel) to recommend the best facility approach for each application, given the importance of different factors to the project team and a rough order-of-magnitude estimate for the facility. The tool also recommends specific tactics at the building system level, to create incremental flexibility within a given strategy.

Reference: (FR-MLS-01)

3 : Implementation Tool #2: Cost Evaluator Tool

The second tool in the suite is the Cost Evaluator. RT-MLS-01 leveraged its members’ industry experience to identify which building systems are most and least sensitive to future changes in the manufacturing process. By using this knowledge, a basic ASTM Uniformat cost estimate, and the user-defined scenarios, the Cost Evaluator (a Microsoft Excel tool) produces dynamic cost models that approximate the relative cost investments for varying levels of flexibility. The cost models are reported on a dashboard and costs are separated by building system, allowing owners and design teams to quickly explore multiple scenarios based upon the current and future needs of the manufacturing system. Repeated use of the tool during conceptual design can help project teams balance the desire for flexibility with the amount of initial investment.

Reference: (FR-MLS-01)

4 : Implementation Tool #3: Flexibility Idea Generator

As it conducted the case studies, RT-MLS-01 recognized that design is complex in general, and design with uncertainty about the lifetime of a manufacturing facility is even more challenging. Design requirements can be at odds with one other, and designing for flexibility can lead to conflicting solutions. To address this situation, the team developed the Flexibility Idea Generator tool (the third tool in the Manufacturing Facility Flexibility Decision Support Suite) to encourage brainstorming within the project team.

The Flexibility Idea Generator is a construction industry-specific application of another proven tool called TRIZ, or the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. When the user enters a feature to improve and a feature to maintain, this Microsoft Excel-based tool returns descriptive and photographic results of inventive principles that could satisfy both features. The tool helps project teams consider possible solutions rapidly and reduces the time it takes to solve design challenges in flexible facilities.

Reference: (FR-MLS-01)

Key Performance Indicators

Research Publications

Flexible Facility Development for Manufacturing and Life Sciences - FR-MLS-01

Publication Date: 10/2019 Type: Final Report Pages: 41 Status: Tool

Presentations from CII Events

Session - Flexible Facilities for Manufacturing & Life Sciences

Publication Date: 08/2019 Presenter: Number of Slides: 48 Event Code:

Related Resources

Manufacturing Facility Flexibility Decision Support Suite

Publication Date: 07/2019 Resource Type: Member-only Resource Source: RT-MLS-01