A small “Home Garage” diaper machine can be operated with only two persons; however they will produce less diapers in a full 8 hour shift than what a typical machine can make in less than 10 minutes. Now imagine having to compete with such monsters if they are already in your market! If you are considering a larger machine, for example, 300 to 600 or more diapers per minute, you will need a small army of people to make sure the equipment runs 24 hours a day. One of the most important factors affecting the number of people required to run a diaper line has to do with the number of packages and whether or not you plan to use automatic or manual packaging equipment. The diaper machine will require at least one operator and one assistant to help him feed the raw materials. In addition, at least one packer is required for every 10 to 12 bags produced per minute. For example, if you want a 20 count bag and you run your machine at 400 diapers per minute with manual packaging, you will probably need two people just for stacking the diapers into the bags and sealing them. However if you run a 6 count bag, you will need 6 people. You have to make sure that the machine is equipped with two output funnels or else it will be impossible to run such low counts due to mechanical cycle limitations. On the other hand, if you plan to make very large counts (more than 25 per stack), make sure you buy a horizontal stacker or you will not be able to handle the output due to lack of stability of the stack. You also need a person to stack the sealed bags into the box, or an automatic case sealer. Depending on the number of bags inside the box, you may need two people to do this job. You have to consider some extra staff to be able to operate continuously without a stop during the lunch break. A typical machine with manual packaging will need about eight people per shift; if you use automatic packaging, you will probably need only about four or five per shift. You need to multiply these numbers by the number of shifts that you want to run. To run the plant for all the 30 days in a month, you need at least four teams to be able to keep the machine running during weekends and holidays. All these people are just for the direct labor in-line; you need more people to run the laboratory, the diaper inspections, the spare parts room, the instrumentation, the finished products warehouse, the raw material warehouse, in addition to all of the engineering infrastructure required to run an efficient factory. A typical diaper factory running only one diaper machine at 300 to 600 diapers per minute and three shifts per week (full capacity) with manual packaging and using a typical count of 20 diapers per bag, will require about 50 people. Unfortunately, running a diaper factory is not as easy as pushing a button.
How large does the building needs to be to fit a diaper factory? Well that depends on the required diaper output and the size of the machine you plan to buy. A “Home Garage” diaper machine will fit, as you guessed, in your own home garage. You only need to park your car somewhere else in the street. Before you move your car, first think carefully if this is the right machine for your market. It is probably not the right choice if any of the big companies are already in your territory, selling their brands, specially if they have a significant market share – for example, a 40% or higher market penetration perhaps implies that you will not succeed with your “Home Garage” machine.
Let us assume that you are looking for a larger size diaper machine, something between 200 to 600 diapers per minute. For this typical diaper machine, the length of the diaper line can be expected to be in the range of 20 to 50 meters in length, including the packaging equipment (60 to 150 feet). There are several issues affecting the total length of a baby diaper machine, like the features you want your diapers to have and whether or not you want to have all the equipment installed in a straight line. One alternative is to have some machine modules placed at 90 degrees or on a second level, accessible from the operator side. For example, the backsheet un-winder, the carrier un-winder, the frontal tape system, or the elastic waist applicator. This option allows for the total length to be reduced, but the width or the height of the machine will increase. If the machine is to be installed in a straight line, you will probably need an area of 30 to 60 meters in length and about eight meters in width. If the machine is to be installed with several modules at 90 degrees, than you may be able to reduce the total length to about 2/3rd of the original size, but then the width will have to be increased from 8 to 10 or 11 meters.
We have talked only about the space requirement for the diaper machine itself; there are other areas that require plenty of space. The raw materials’ and the finished products’ warehouses will need to be designed in relation to the expected level of inventory, in terms of number of days of production. For example, if you only plan to have one mid size diaper machine, you may be OK with just 1,000 square meters for the warehouses; however you will be constrained to less than a week’s inventory. In some locations it is possible to operate just-in-time, specially if the suppliers have their own inventories close by. In this case, it may be possible to operate with less than a week’s inventory of raw materials. Other locations may require as much as a month’s inventory due to complicated logistics or customs regulations that slow down transportation of raw materials from far away places. Another important factor to take into account is the frequency of changes in diaper sizes; the more the inventory of finished products, the less frequent will be the shut downs of the machine for size change; on the other hand, the working capital requirement may rise significantly. All diaper companies must be aware of working capital requirements; some of it could be subsidized by raw material suppliers (as interest-free credits); however for a new company that is starting from scratch without commercial references, it is unlikely that the suppliers will give them any credit, at least in the beginning. You need to look for costs and benefits to decide the best size for your warehouse, based on your particular financial situation. Finally, you will also have to take into account space for offices, spare parts room, quality control laboratory, training room, space for the trucks to manoeuvre and space for the peripheral equipment (dryers, compressor, dust collector, scrap collector, machine shop room, etc.).
You can try to rediscover the wheel or take advantage of other people with plenty of field experience who can help you plan your lay out. If you are considering professional help, we invite you to take into account our diaper consulting services.