Businesses in the manufacturing sector have the same goals as most other businesses, typically these include improving productivity, decreasing costs, and increasing profits. However, manufacturing companies are more likely to focus on developing greater efficiency to achieve these goals.
Even though some manufacturers view cutting costs to the maximum as the key to improving efficiency, it can soon lead to problems such as lower quality products, an unhappy workforce, and dangerous working conditions.
Rather than solely identifying costs to reduce, managers and owners of businesses can also implement other more positive solutions to improve efficiency, seven of which you can read more about below.
1. Review and Upgrade Your Machinery
Advanced and state-of-the-art equipment and machinery are a must in a manufacturing plant aiming for greater efficiency. For example, some manufacturers are using a cartoner to automatically cover and pack a range of products such as drinks and food in cardboard sleeves. High-tech automated machinery is vital to running an efficient plant, employing highly trained staff and implementing streamlined processes will have little effect on a manufacturer’s efficiency if the machinery is outdated and regularly in need of repairs.
Manufacturing by definition covers a broad area, however, if you look at the production of something everyone is familiar with, food and drink, then there are some clearly defined functions that machines can automatically complete, these are preparation, mechanical processing, heat processing, preservation, and packaging.
To ensure your plant is using the most efficient and reliable machinery with little to no downtime, plant managers must constantly monitor and review equipment so that it can be upgraded if needed. Installing newer and upgraded equipment will help to reduce the lead time on orders, power usage, and repair costs.
2. Review the Current Workflow
One of the key tasks in developing better efficiency in a manufacturing business is taking time to highlight and identify aspects of the current workflow that need improving. Typically, managers focus on improvements in three important areas; equipment, labor, and processes.
Reviewing a factory’s equipment, infrastructure, machinery, and technology should involve a careful inspection to establish points of constant repair and high energy consumption.
Evaluating the performance of your current staff can help to highlight if a lack of experience and training is slowing down the production process or causing waste. During a review, plant managers should check if each employee has the relevant skills for their tasks and take note of how long they take to complete them. Reports created in the labor review can be used to tailor-make a training plan.
After reviewing a factory’s equipment and staff, plant managers should evaluate the processes involved in every step of production to discover and record any points where production is slowed. Once the review process is complete, managers can use the insights from the reports to list several required changes and implement a plan to improve efficiency.
3. Use Supply Chain Management Software
Manufacturing businesses depend on effective and reliable supply chain management software to ensure costs are controlled, risks such as late shipping are avoided, decision-making is informed and customer service excellence is maintained. Supply chain management software is a versatile tool that plant managers can use to perform some efficiency-improving tasks, including:
- Creating performance reports
- Fast communication with distributors and suppliers
- Automation of invoicing, order processing, and shipment tracking
- Forecasting demand
- Inventory management
- Identifying areas of inefficiency and waste
- Sharing information across a network of distribution centers, plants, storage sites, and suppliers
4. Maintain Organized Work Spaces
The level of organization and the care put into a plant layout can have a big impact on the efficiency and safety of a factory. During the review process, managers should pay close attention to the layout of the plant, employee’s workspaces, and how staff moves around the floor. Ideally, equipment and tools should be easy to operate and goods moved around conveniently and safely.
Factories that have been set up optimally, organize the plant as a fast operating production line, therefore all unnecessary obstructions and hazards should be removed as it is essential that the products can move along the line uninterrupted and staff can work without the risk of injury.
5. Preventive Maintenance
The costs related to machinery breaking down and halting production can soon add up to huge amounts, therefore even manufacturing plants with relatively new and advanced machinery opt to undertake preventative maintenance to reduce the risk of downtime during peak production hours.
To assist plant managers, many manufacturers use asset management software to track the condition of machinery, record maintenance checks and repairs, and automate the scheduling of maintenance.
6. Ensure Staff Are Fully Trained
Another aspect of improving efficiency in manufacturing is the quality of employee training, which management should view as an ongoing process of development and reinforcement of skills.
To ensure staff is the most productive they can be, plant managers should ensure employees are fully trained on all the equipment they need to do their job. In addition to increasing efficiency, training will also create a safer workplace and happier employees, typically resulting in fewer accidents and better staff retention. Ideally, training shouldn’t be limited to equipment and technology, if staff is educated and trained about other policies and activities of the business it can help to develop greater loyalty, better communication, and positive company culture.
7. Implement Better Waste Management
Material wastage can be a huge problem in some manufacturing plants that can end up costing thousands when totaled up at the end of the year. However, there are several ways factories can reduce or recycle their wasted material left over from the production process, these include identifying reductions in material use, reclaiming the cost of scrap material by selling it to recycling centers, and using waste material to make new products.
The packaging required for your products should be regularly reviewed to check if unnecessary material can be removed or replaced with something more cost-effective and eco-friendly.
To improve the performance of their business, manufacturing firms must conduct efficiency reviews and highlight areas to improve before implementing some changes similar to the seven solutions in this article such as upgrading machinery, improving staff training, carrying out preventive maintenance, and managing the supply chain with software.