Time is money, and nowhere is this truer than in the industrial sector. An increase in productivity results in increased revenue and the opportunity to expand the business, increase wages or purchase new equipment. But conversely, even the slightest drop in productivity can mean haemorrhaging money. Increased productivity should therefore be driven by careful thought and deliberate action that focus on long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes that may cause more problems down the line.
Here are five key areas to focus on to improve productivity and efficiency in your industrial organisation:
The best place to start is by performing a review of existing workflow. Value-stream mapping is a valuable tool used to assess where improvement may be needed and where possible snags in the process could occur. Kanban, a visual system for managing work as it moves through a process, visualises both the workflow and the work itself passing through that process. The goal is to identify potential bottlenecks in the workflow and fix them so that the entire cycle can occur in the most efficient way.
Once the review has been done, areas where processes could be updated or changed can be identified and solutions put in place. For example, automation can be used to increase efficiency and reduce errors. Software packages can be extremely powerful tools in streamlining scheduling and monitoring workflow and inventory. Newer and more advanced equipment can speed up production and enhance production capabilities.
Machinery that is worn or damaged is a recipe for disaster. Preventative maintenance therefor ensures continued functioning of equipment and reduced downtime. Scheduled maintenance is exactly that – scheduled. It is far less expensive and disruptive to have downtime for routine maintenance than to have to stop operations indefinitely because of broken equipment.
While having the latest and greatest in cutting-edge technology when it comes to machinery is good, having to replace it because someone broke it is not. Not only must machinery be regularly repaired and maintained, but the employees operating these machines should also be competent at using them and be able to troubleshoot when the need arises – after all, a machine is only as good as the person using it.
Outdated, broken or unused equipment or tools in the workplace can also be a drain on productivity. Apart from the clutter, spending money on maintaining equipment that isn’t pulling its weight is not a good idea. Dispose of any machines, tools or parts that do nothing but take up space and cost money.
It’s important to have not only skilled people, but people with the right skills in the right jobs. With constant changes in technology and regulations, training and education of employees should be an ongoing process. Day-to-day training focused on the workplace, such as onsite safety procedures or how to use a new piece of equipment, is a given. But workers who express an interest in expanding on an existing skill or even acquiring a new one should also be allowed – and even encouraged – to attend courses or workshops.
Employee training is beneficial not just because it provides growth and proficiency for a worker, it is also a good retention tool. If employees feel they are valued, they are more likely to stay. Not only that, but education programmes could even result in workers coming up with solutions themselves for problems they encounter in the workplace on a daily basis.
How much inventory should you have on hand? It’s a fine balance: Too much means increased storage costs; too little and you run the risk of running out and production coming to a halt. Inventory-tracking software is extremely useful in tracking stock quantities and warning when there are shortages. In some cases, suppliers can access the system and automatically restock supplies when needed. Of course, third parties must be relied on so it’s important to maintain good relationships with suppliers to ensure the quality of the product and timeliness of deliveries. Where possible, processes should be put in place to prevent or mitigate production delays resulting from supply shortages.
This one is a bit of a no-brainer. Organising equipment, tools and materials will not only improve manufacturing productivity but will also help to keep the workplace a safe environment for employees. Work areas should be clean and tidy with no unnecessary tools, materials or machinery cluttering the space. Tools and parts should be sorted, organised and stored in a logical and structured way. Reducing unnecessary movement in the production process also assists in achieving optimal efficiency for each task, so layout of the manufacturing floor should be carefully considered to maximise efficiency and reduce time wastage.
DID YOU KNOW? Kanban, also spelt ‘kamban’ in Japanese, translates to ‘Billboard’ (‘signboard’ in Chinese), which indicates ‘available capacity (to work).’ Kanban is a concept related to lean and just-in-time (JIT) production, where it is used as a scheduling system that tells you what to produce, when to produce it, and how much to produce.