This article originally appeared in Michigan Manufacturing Association‘s monthly magazine MiMfg. For the full article, click here.

Working within a single production facility is the best way to limit costs and manage resources. However, as your business grows there will come a point when your production floor can no longer sustain your growing demand. Expanding your plant can be costly, time-consuming, and requires a long-standing commitment. Yet, the need for sales growth will ultimately dictate a need for additional production space. Knowing when to expand is key. So, how to you decide when the time is right?

Here are five signs your building may be limiting productivity:

1. You can’t see across the plant floor to monitor production status.

Visibility is the key to dynamic management. Difficulty seeing across a plant floor may indicate a lack of available floor space. Competition for this space causes resources to stack up, reducing lines of sight over time. Visibility problems often lead to safety challenges, lost time searching for information, and can keep other complications hidden.

2. You move things around to do equipment service or change production setup.

Productivity depends on staying operational. Keeping machines in good condition and ready for rapid retooling is “production 101.” When equipment is placed too close together, supporting resources like work benches, tool boxes, supply carts, and document desks overlap into equipment-clear floor space. Equipment change over and maintenance require obstructions first be moved out of the way. This extra work takes time, slows production, and often creates new obstacles for other activities.

3. Your aisles are too narrow, unclear, or frequently blocked.

Access is critical to the life of production. Clear aisles enable rapid and safe delivery of materials, resources or service support. As open space, however, it can be tempting to use aisles as temporary staging areas. In addition, when new lines or configurations are integrated into facilities, aisles get squeezed, eliminated or rearranged. Compromised aisles can reduce safety, increase movement, and reduce productivity.

4. Your production flow looks like a pinball game.

Simple, clean and direct flow is a standard of a healthy production floor. As needs change or manufacturing demands grow, production lines often become disorganized and disconnected. When direct connections between production stages are lost, productive flow drops. Unnecessary movement increases the amount of work in process. This leads to an increase in inventory and a reduction in the speed of production.

READ MORE:

Read about sign 5 “You avoid new opportunities because it might interfere with current production,” at the Michigan Manufacturing Association website. Find it here.

If any (or all) of the above signs are familiar to you, it is time to explore the idea of a building expansion. The additional space could help you improve visibility, create better flow, increase safety, and make capturing future business easier. An evaluation of your current status might be more valuable than you think.