Process You Should Probably Streamline That Help Your Manufacturing Business Run More Smoothly
In most manufacturing businesses there are only a few things that separate you from your competitors. One of those is the startup cost of your business. Manufacturing equipment is extremely expensive. That makes it difficult for others to set up a competing business. Another is efficiency. Your clients rely on your ability to deliver your products quickly. If you can’t, they’ll likely go somewhere else. To prevent this, you need to make sure several processes are streamlined.
Making sure that you have all the right materials to manufacture your products can be a tricky endeavor. You should have a team of employees dedicated to this. You need to have them track every single material you use and how fast you use them. Having a low inventory of a crucial component can cause your manufacturing plant to shut down until it arrives. That is something you can’t afford. Having too much of a component can cause you to have a crowded inventory floor which can cause organizational problems. It could even lead you to lose a lot of money if the component becomes obsolete. In an ideal world, you should order only the amount that you need. However, you need to keep an extra supply of each material in case a component is faulty, gets damaged, or a future shipment is behind schedule.
As soon as your products are finished, they need to be recorded, packaged and shipped to your clients immediately. While this process may seem simple, it quickly becomes complex. If you don’t have an efficient system, your shipping department can easily send the wrong products to the wrong clients or send the wrong amounts. This can quickly anger your clients and lead to future loss of profitability. To avoid these problems, you should have a computer system that keeps track of who fulfills each shipping order and when. They should be required to check off that all the components are included in the shipping before they are loaded onto the delivery truck. Shipping numbers should be used to track the location and estimated arrival of the shipment. Your shipping department should give reliable updates to your clients so that they know what to expect.
Sometimes it isn’t a lack of components that slows down your manufacturing. Sometimes it's that the components and materials aren’t in the right part of your manufacturing plant. Unloading shipments, opening boxes, recording that materials have been received, and distributing the parts to the correct part of the plant can be a long process. To streamline, you need to have a system in place that highlights parts that need to be given priority. Your receiving team should be on the lookout for these parts and immediately process them when they come in. Sometimes a certain component will be needed in multiple different parts of your manufacturing plant. Your receiving team needs to keep careful track of this and make sure that the right quantities are sent to each area.
Manufacturing plants often generate a lot of waste. The shipping boxes alone can quickly flood the manufacturing floor. Add on top of that the shavings and dust that come off of materials as you cut and shape them, and you can have a huge mess if you don’t handle your waste properly. You can promote proper waste disposal by having large bins nearby the areas that produce the most waste. These bins should have a schedule where they are regularly emptied. Using regular trash cans can make transporting the waste difficult. Self-dumping hoppers save over 100,000 hours each year by streamlining the waste disposal process.
In a manufacturing plant, you need to have enough employees to keep your production line moving smoothly. It can throw a serious wrench in things if you have too many employees on vacation or quit at a certain time. Depending on the size of your plant, you should have a handful of extra employees working at any given time. There shouldn’t be so many that you have people that are standing around being lazy, but there should be enough to pick up the slack when your shorthanded. When you need to hire new people, you can’t afford to wait for people to respond to your employment advertisements. You should always have a bank of resumes for individuals that are searching for employment. That way you can quickly bring someone in for an interview when the need arises.
When you bring on a new employee, it can take a lot of time to train them in their new duties. Some companies neglect this training and simply expect the employee to learn as they go. This leads to several problems. The new employee is often stressed, makes a lot of mistakes, and wastes other employees time with questions. This can seriously reduce the productivity of your plant depending on the position. In some cases, it will even lead to injury. You can avoid these problems by developing a formal training system. In some cases, you can deliver this training through video and self-guided slide presentations. In other cases, you may wish to have hands-on training. Regardless of the method, you should prepare the materials and training to cover all the material that the employee should know in a manner that they can retain it.
Manufacturing a product usually requires that a material undergo several different processes. In order to accommodate this, there are generally two different approaches. One approach is to allow the product to be stationary and bring the processes to the product. This is the approach that many CNC machines use. A block of metal is placed on a platform and the CNC machine brings different cutting and drilling tools to the metal in a computer-controlled order. Another method is to transport the product from process to process in what is commonly called a manufacturing line. Depending on the different products you produce, this line can appear more like a complicated web. You can greatly reduce your manufacturing time if you work to reduce the distance in between each station so that you don’t spend as much time on transporting material.
Maintenance and Retooling.
Many manufacturing machines are so large or expensive that a plant cannot afford to have backups. In this case it is extremely important that you have a regular maintenance schedule so that the machine doesn’t shut down. The machine manufacturer will usually include a maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual. This schedule should be followed religiously. You should also have a streamlined system for retooling your machines when you have to change the product that you are manufacturing. While you are performing retooling, you can’t be manufacturing so you need this process to go as quick as possible.
Streamlining processes in a manufacturing plant can be a difficult process. Often it is the little things that will make the largest difference. Ask your employees for suggestions that they believe can speed things up. Ask what tends to cause them the most frustration. These pain points are problems that need to be solved. In some cases, you may want to bring in a consultant for an outside opinion on how you can improve.
Read this next: 3 Tips to Help Identify Process Inefficiencies