The Facilities Layout Applet/Application (FLAP) is a testbed for various facilities layout heuristics. It is an interactive applet that animates the various heuristics as they process a facility layout. It can operate on user data or randomly generated data.

The facilities layout problem (FLP) is an intractable problem in that arriving at the optimal solution grows exponentionally as each new element is added to the problem. The general idea behind FLP is very simple. A facility contains a certain amount of area to parceled out to various departments. The deparments must be placed as to minimize the cost of the distance and flow between each pair of departments.

Taking a modern business as an example, each department of the facility corresponds the to area needed by each business unit. Some departments might need a department where the length is far greater than the width. In this example the assembly line structure of a cafeteria or deli needs to be accomodated along with the other units such as marketing, development, sales, and research. The department spaces needed by each business unit usually are unique because they are determined by certain individual properties. For example, the sales unit might need large conference rooms whereas the research unit might only need half as much space for its equipment.

Some essential properties of one unit are needed by others which is generally abstracted to being the cost of traversing from one department to another. In the business office example, placing the research & development and sales & marketing units as close together is far more advantageous. These relationships should be reflected in the flow from each of these facilities to the other. The facility might be a newly acquired single story office building in which these various units are needed to be placed.

FLAP takes as input the relative sizes of the departments to the size of the facility all of which must be predetermined before optimizing the layout of the various departments. FLAP keeps the departments as fixed size rectangles or mutable areas which can accurately reflect the internal structure of a unit. In real life, however, most but not all departments are fit to the office building which has been recently bought in the above example.

Using user-controlled animation, FLAP is a graphical gateway into the visualization of various FLP heuristics. The user has full control over the type of FLP problem to be solved, the data generated, the process of solving the problem at hand, and the visualization of the process.

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