Business Automation and Software Blog

6 Easy Ways to Increase Manufacturing Productivity

Posted by Robert Baran on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 @ 11:00 AM

It may only be February, but it’s never too early to start thinking about spring cleaning. According to one survey, 66 percent of adults practice spring cleaning. But 54 percent also admitted to finding it hard to get motivated or figure out where to start.

Do you feel that way about changing things in your manufacturing facility? If so, you’re not alone. Change can be hard and knowing where to start can be daunting. Fortunately, whether your facility needs a major overhaul or just some minor tweaking, we’ve got six ways you can easily increase manufacturing productivity in your facility and be running more smoothly than ever in no time.

#1 – Review Your Existing Workflow

You won’t know what should or even can be changed until you know how everything works right now. These three areas contain critical information to help you identify needed changes:

  • People – Do you have people with the right skills in the right places? Do you have a project manager to keep the critical pathway visible and on track? Are objectives clearly defined, realistic, and safe?
  • Processes – When was the last time you mapped your processes? Have you used value stream mapping to assess process improvement projects? Where are the pain points and bottlenecks?
  • Equipment and technology – Is all your equipment in good repair? Is the technology you rely on optimal for your current needs? How easy is it to make changes in production?

After reviewing, you may find that you don’t need to change anything at all. If your processes as they stand now are in good order, then there’s no reason to create upheaval to make unnecessary changes. Unless there is a clear financial or safety reason for making a change, truly consider whether the change actually needs to be made.

#2 – Update Processes and Technology

Are you being as efficient as possible with your current processes and technology? Processes that have been in place for a long time may be riddled with workarounds that were created when new equipment was added, or production methods changed. After reviewing and mapping your existing workflow, start identifying areas where processes and/or technology could use some updates or changes.

  • Automation is a powerful tool for increasing efficiency and reducing error.
  • New software solutions can help with scheduling, inventory, and monitoring workflow.
  • Improvements in equipment can improve production speed and quality.

If you’re considering new technology and equipment, look at the total cost of ownership and how the bottom line will be affected. A high initial expense may be worth it if the total cost of ownership is lower than the technology or process you are replacing, and if it solves a problem such as clearing a production bottleneck or reducing scrap.

#3 – Commit to Scheduled Maintenance

Just like you don’t want to ignore the “check engine” light on your car, you don’t want to get caught ignoring regular maintenance in your production facility. Downtime for maintenance costs much less than downtime due to broken and worn equipment. Maintenance can be scheduled; breakdowns always come at the worst possible time.

  • Train all operators in regular maintenance and troubleshooting procedures.
  • Schedule preventive maintenance at regular intervals.
  • Identify the best time for maintenance by using information from the floor and your workflow processes.
  • Don’t put off maintenance.

#4 – Train and Educate Employees

Employee education should be an ongoing process, especially when new equipment or technology is involved. Training and education ensure your employees not only know how to use the new tools properly, but also get the best value out of using them. Also add regular education and training on proper communication and workplace harassment to ensure minimal disruption in workflow.

  • Schedule training sessions for all operators when new equipment is installed.
  • Keep accurate records of training and schedule refreshers if needed.
  • Offer educational opportunities for employees who wish to advance or obtain new skills.

#5 – Organize the Workspace

How many of us plan to clean out our closets in the spring? Having everything organized makes it easier to get ready in the morning. Similarly, reducing movement and clutter in your workspace saves time. Excess movement is a sign of poor organization and can cost you in production time. Consider techniques such as Kanban (just-in-time production) to reduce delays and increase efficiency.

  • Reduce movement for optimal task efficiency.
  • Create the optimal layout of tools and materials for the job or process.
  • Remove unneeded or unused tools and materials from the workspace.
  • Create organized storage to reduce time to find materials, documents, and equipment.
  • Lay out the manufacturing floor to maximize efficiency.

Reduce travel time and distance wherever possible. If a product must be moved from one machine to another, is there a way to shorten the distance, orient the product, or move the product more quickly (yet safely) to the next step in the process? Is there a software solution that could improve scheduling?

#6 – Maintain Optimal Inventory

When you have excess inventory, you still maintain hopes of using or selling it all, and thus will need a place to store it. If you don’t have enough inventory, you could face a work stoppage while you wait for more. Optimizing inventory is especially important if you are following lean manufacturing principles such as the previously mentioned Kanban technique. This will take some careful consideration and planning.

  • Use software to track inventory and create automatic notifications of shortages. You may be able to allow vendors direct access to your inventory counts and automatically fulfill needed supplies.
  • Create favored vendor relationships to gain accountability for the quality of parts and timeliness of deliveries.
  • Make predictions about the impact of shortages and put processes in place to mitigate production delays.

Keep track of rejection rates, declining quality, and late deliveries so you can rectify them with the vendor or find a new one. If you know one of your vendors is undergoing an extensive change such as a sale to another company, request assurances and guarantees that your deliveries will continue as before.

Increased productivity should be driven by deliberate change rather than rapid “fixes” that may help in the short term but cause long-term problems. Also, increasing productivity on the backs of employees can result in burn-out and turnover as well as costly safety problems.

Bonus Tip: Find the Right Partner

Selecting the right manufacturing consultant partner for your organization is a critical business decision and can feed into the success of the six tips listed above. With the right manufacturing consultant, you’ll be able to select the best manufacturing software and evaluate performance, identifying your unique business requirements in order to get the best value out of your manufacturing software and facility. At PositiveVision, we offer full-service software consulting. Whether you’re big or small, seasoned or just starting out, PositiveVision can assist you with manufacturing software, finding ways to save you money and reduce inefficiencies, all while growing revenue. 

See what PositiveVision can do for your manufacturing organization. Call 800.559.1323 or click today.


Topics: manufacturing productivity, manufacturing consultants