No matter what you’re manufacturing, chances are you’re managing a fairly complicated and costly operation. Not only do you have to pay for facilities, equipment, materials, and labor as part of the package, but the complex processes involved in turning raw materials into finished products could definitely have some bearing on the time and cost involved in manufacturing. And whether you’re producing your own goods or taking on jobs for a variety of clients, the bottom line is crucial to your ability to succeed. For this reason you may be looking for ways to simplify the manufacturing process, streamlining your operation in order to increase productivity and reduce waste, and cutting costs along the way. Here are just a few steps that should help you to meet your goals.
- Perform an assessment. You can perform audits to find all kinds of waste, from financial to energy consumption. So the logical first step when it comes to streamlining your manufacturing operation is to assess every component of your business model in search of areas that can be better managed. This could mean eliminating redundancies like workers that are doing virtually the same tasks or finding hardware and software solutions that can help to make processes more efficient or free employees up to attend to other tasks. But before you can make such determinations you need to first detail every aspect of your operation in order to spot flaws.
- Rethink processes. There are many types of manufacturing, but almost all involve both machinery (or other equipment) and a human element. In terms of the human component (i.e. labor), you’ll want to look at processes in order to determine where performance can be improved. In some cases you’ll discover that processes are overly complicated, in which cases you can cut out useless tasks in order to make getting from point A to point B faster and more efficient. And even if every step in a process is necessary, you may be able to find alternatives that speed up the process, such as utilizing computer-controlled machinery or simply adopting a completely different routine.
- Implement suitable technology upgrades. A lot of manufacturing equipment is now computer controlled, and if your hardware and software are outdated, you may not be enjoying the most streamlined manufacturing processes available. Although upgrades are likely to cost you a pretty penny, you need to calculate the rate of return over time thanks to increased speed and output.
- Track and analyze. Your efforts to simplify and streamline manufacturing, increasing productivity in the process, are bound to produce results. But if you fail to track and analyze various aspects of the changes you make (such as how employees react to them, whether or not other costs like electrical usage increase in the process, and overall gains and losses), you’re missing a major opportunity to continue improving.
- Adopt lean manufacturing principles. There is definitely a link between lean manufacturing and the environment, but you don’t have to be a certified green manufacturer to appreciate the benefits of reducing waste in your operation. So take a page from manufacturers like Toyota and Elite Elastomers, both of which utilize lean manufacturing to diminish wasteful practices, offering the same value to customers without as much work, cost, and so on. If you’re looking to streamline, understanding and adopting lean manufacturing principles is a good way to go about it.