You can manufacture products. But it’s hard to manufacture efficiently.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report in 2019. Out of 86 manufacturing industries that they monitor, 54 had decreases in efficiency and productivity. The computer equipment and HVAC manufacturing industries added hours yet declined in productivity by nearly eight percent.
The manufacturing process has grown complicated. More companies are using automation and reducing their worker pools. Workers have less morale, so manufacturing efficiency drops.
Thankfully, there are ways you can reverse the trends. Here are seven of them.
- Get Organized
Set a gameplan for your manufacturing productivity. Give yourself a number and a timeline to hit. “We need to increase shipments by 20% by the end of the year” is better than “We need to get more productive.”
Then reform your warehouse so you can hit those goals. Walk around your factory floor. Place tools near worker stations and make an inventory of important goods.
Create a checklist of duties for each worker to perform every day. Put into clear language what your expectations are. Take time to talk to your employees, checking in with them on their progress and work habits.
Organize your chain of command. Allow every employee to contact superiors with complaints and suggestions. Even an entry-level employee has great ideas to improve productivity.
- Examine Your Workflow
Break your workflow down into individual components. Start with how you process orders, then go step-by-step through how you carry them out. Consider transportation as well.
Take notice of where the bottlenecks are. If there is a step that takes a while for you to accomplish, figure out what’s slowing you down. You may need better training, or you may need more tools to speed things up.
Before you make a change to the flow, develop a hypothesis. Write down what you expect to happen after completing the change. Compare the results to your hypothesis, and reform your changes accordingly.
- Waste Not, Want Not
You can waste materials, energy, manpower, space, and info. Avoid wasting anything whatsoever.
Use fewer materials and less energy to begin with. Do not order items in bulk, and turn off your equipment at night. Reduce the amount of business packaging you use and recycle any scraps.
Break down assignments to avoid wasting two people on one job. If you don’t need someone to oversee an operation, move that person to a different task.
Move waste and unused equipment out of your manufacturing space. Share customer complaints and insights with upper-level managers. Encourage a process of collaboration, where everyone has access to information at any given time.
- Improve Your Employee Training
You should train all new employees that you hire. Advise them on safety guidelines and ways they can increase productivity.
But you should keep training beyond that point. Training helps with retention as it allows employees to develop their skills. They also see you as an informative and hands-on boss.
Train your employees to troubleshoot problems as they arise. Allow your employees to act as substitutes, switching out when they need a break.
When you get new equipment, bring your employees up to speed on it. Put it into operation as soon as everyone knows how to use it.
You should also train your employees on human resources. Mandate sexual harassment and unconscious bias training. Create a workspace where everyone feels respected.
Apply numbers to everything in your manufacturing process. This allows you to make goals and devise concrete steps to reach those goals. Numbers also allow you to spot areas that need attention, i.e. the low-numbered ones.
Consider the dollar values of every reform you make. How much money will you save when you take a step?
You should consider employee retention and turnover. How can you keep employees around for longer periods of time? How many jobs will this step save?
Factor in your equipment as well. If you burn through a lot of tools, reform your process to stop using them up.
- Emphasize Manufacturing Efficiency in Company Culture
Your company culture is not independent of your efficiency. The two are closely linked.
During team meetings, mention the importance of producing high efficiency. Talk about steps you can take to increase it.
Keep in mind realistic expectations for the efficiency you can increase. Be optimistic, but don’t set goals and guidelines that your workers can’t reach.
Emphasize collaboration and teamwork. The best way to increase efficiency is through all employees working together. Allow your workers to handle problems and delegate responsibilities to each other.
- Maintain Your Equipment
If a piece of machinery breaks down, your entire process halts. The best way to stop a breakdown is to keep one from occurring.
Keep in mind the schedule of wear for all of your equipment. Consult with manufacturers and keep a log of when the pieces will break. Before a piece is scheduled to break, get it maintained.
Buy spares of your important tools. When one breaks, roll the spare in and keep the process going.
If a tool keeps breaking down, don’t keep working with it. Put it aside and find a better product. That brief halt to productivity is better than extended delays from the defective tool.
The Best Ways to Improve Your Manufacturing Process
Manufacturing efficiency is going down in a number of industries. But you can rise above your competition with a few basic measures.
Get organized and structure your workflow. Set clear goals with concrete numbers and steps for you to reach. Figure out where your workday is slowing down, and think of measures to speed it up.
Avoid all sources of waste. Don’t order anything in excess. Improve your employee training so everyone knows about new processes and technology.
Add numbers to your steps, considering dollar amounts and employee turnover. Integrate manufacturing efficiency into your company culture and maintain your equipment.
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