Those in manufacturing know how much of a struggle it is to maintain the delicate balance between productivity, cost, and profit. In a perfect world, we should all be able to maximize both productivity and profits while keeping costs relatively low. Unfortunately, the reality that most manufacturers face is far from ideal. Many are forced to make difficult compromises to meet mounting costs of production while fulfilling demand and maintaining the trust and loyalty of their customer base.
A lot of manufacturers believe that reducing costs is the most effective way to improve efficiency at a facility. However, this can also be detrimental to the quality of the finished product, creating a ripple effect that could negatively impact profits and decrease customer satisfaction. Fortunately, there are numerous strategies that can be employed to increase your manufacturing facility’s throughput and output without sacrificing quality. Read on below:
Evaluate Your Workflow
Examining your workflow will allow you to identify pain points and process inefficiencies, which can then inform what changes or corrections will have to be implemented. When looking for issues, information from 3 critical areas of operation can be analyzed:
- People refers to the human component of your operation: your employees, machine operators, and other members of the workforce. Hiring skilled workers isn’t enough—they should be placed in positions where they can utilize their skills most effectively. Managers should possess the necessary leadership qualities to keep employees on track. Objectives should be well-defined, sensible, and safe.
- Processes refer to the sequence of actions taken to manufacture your product. Some manufacturing facilities continue to employ outdated processes that may be slowing down production with unnecessary steps.
- Equipment refers to the tools, machinery, and resources used in your manufacturing facility. Faulty equipment can cause bottlenecks and hold up the production line. It’s also possible that the technology you are using at your facility is too old and in need of an update.
Treat Your Equipment Well
One of the biggest mistakes that a manufacturer can make is neglecting or foregoing equipment maintenance. Maintenance is vital to keeping your facility’s equipment in good working order. It’s also a controllable factor: maintenance can always be scheduled, but equipment breaks can happen at any time—usually the worst possible time.
Scheduling some downtime to tune up existing equipment regularly is actually more cost-effective than having to repair or replace a machine that has broken down. Regular maintenance also contributes to the safety of the people working at your facility, as well as the facility itself. The good news is that industrial machinery is usually built to withstand years of sustained use. However, certain small parts such as ball bearings may need replacement or refurbishing every so often.
Equipment operators should be trained in both maintenance procedures and how to troubleshoot common issues that can arise while the equipment is in use. This way, they can easily and quickly resolve any problems and keep the line moving.
Take Advantage of Technology
Manufacturing is an industry that has greatly benefited from technological advancements that have been made in recent years. More and more facilities are adopting automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence to speed up processes and minimize errors. Technology also contributes to making workplaces safer for human employees.
The best part about the innovations made in industrial and manufacturing technology is that they can be applied even to legacy machinery and equipment. Older tools can be updated to run more efficiently, saving manufacturers from having to replace machines that are otherwise perfectly functional. Upgrading can also lower energy consumption, which, in turn, lowers the overall cost of production.
Invest in Your Employees
Providing continuous education and training to your existing workforce can be beneficial in many ways. Safety and equipment training prevent employees from injuring themselves while performing their duties and can minimize accidents at the facility. Meanwhile, continuous education improves employee performance, mitigates weaknesses, and ensures more consistent work that adheres to quality standards.
Also, it costs less to retain a skilled employee than it does to hire someone new to perform the same job. A new worker will have to overcome a learning curve to become proficient; your existing employee is already familiar with the work that you need them to do.
Rearrange Your Layout
Productivity and efficiency can be hindered by excess movement and clutter. Rearranging the facility layout to reduce distance between processes should make a significant difference. Aside from cutting down travel time, it’s also important to consider the time it will take for employees to access the tools and equipment they need to perform their duties. Arranging workspaces so that these tools are within reach and that tasks can be done using as little movement as possible can also improve the situation.
Even facilities that are performing as expected can always be made more efficient. Follow these strategies, pay close attention to your current processes, and keep an eye out for technologies that can be used to improve your systems, and you can make your facility more productive than ever.