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ASCM Insights

Proven Ways to Improve Manufacturing Throughput

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You know your shop needs to run at full capacity to remain profitable and competitive. But do you know if it actually does? As a manufacturer, throughput in production can mean the difference between meeting quotas and losing customers to your competition. Falling behind on throughput can lead to slow or delayed orders, which in turn can send your customers running to your competition.

Here are six foolproof ways to increase your manufacturing throughput and make your shop more efficient.

1. Review your existing workflow. You can’t make any improvements until you actually know how your shop floor functions. There are three main areas to evaluate:‍ First, labor: Do you have enough skilled people in the right positions? Do your staff members clearly know their objectives and work plans? Do you have an efficient project manager in place who is able to stay on top of things? Next is equipment: Is all of your equipment in good repair? Is the technology that you rely on actually suited to your current needs? Thirdly, processes: Are they clearly mapped? Where are your pain points and bottlenecks?

Understanding where you are and where your issues lie helps you to make impactful improvements. It can be helpful to leverage an enterprise resources planning system or other software to monitor your shop floor, assess how it’s functioning and identify problem areas.

2. Eliminate bottlenecks. Once you have reviewed your existing workflows and identified where your problems are, work on eliminating bottlenecks. Maybe you have some processes that have been in place for such a long time that they’re now riddled with workarounds. Create new, streamlined processes that align with the current setup and flow of your factory. Or, you may need to add extra stations to a long process so more parts can be processed at once. You may also need to find ways to make a process more efficient or possibly even eliminate a process entirely and replace it with a different one. The right solutions will depend on factors such as spare floor space, expense of equipment involved, and the nature and necessity of a given process. Use the intel you discovered in step one to make informed decisions.

3. Reduce equipment downtime. One of the best ways to slow things down is by ignoring regular maintenance. Scheduled downtime for maintenance costs much less — in terms of both time and money — than downtime due to broken or worn-out equipment. Don’t delay maintenance thinking you’re actually speeding up your shop floor. Instead, plan for it regularly to ensure your machinery is always in optimum shape. Again, use the information you gathered in step one about your shop floor and workflow processes to identify the best time to schedule routine maintenance to have the least impact on your business. And, importantly, train equipment operators in regular maintenance and troubleshooting procedures.

4. Reduce parts rejection rate. You may have a high output, but you will still fail to meet throughput goals if too many parts are being rejected. If you can produce 500 parts per hour but have a 10% part rejection rate, you’ll waste 50 parts every hour, or 400 parts a shift. If you can cut your rejection rate in half, your throughput would increase by 200 parts per shift. Look for elements in your production process that can damage your parts or cause them to fail to meet production standards. By identifying and correcting these issues, you improve production throughput and increase customer satisfaction with your products. You’ll also avoid money wasted on remanufacturing or reprocessing parts.

5. Improve employee training. When employees lack proper training, they may not have the skills and competence to find improvements that they can make at their workstations. Worse yet, those who are poorly trained may accidentally create delays because they don’t understand the entirety of the production process. Give them the skills to make positive, well-informed changes to the production process is key to maximizing throughput.

Educate employees about where their role fits within your company’s goals and the greater supply chain. Each person’s efforts can have ripple effects up and down the supply chain. Helping them understand their impacts empowers them to do better and do their work with a sense of pride. Shape your shop floor operators into future leaders at your organization through certifications including ASCM designations: Certified in Planning and Inventory Management; Certified Supply Chain Professional; Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution; the SCOR-Professional endorsement; the Supply Chain Procurement Certificate; the Supply Chain Warehousing Certificate; or the new Supply Chain Planning certificate. Also, ASCM’s Supply Chain Learning Link offers a variety of short, on-demand virtual trainings about a variety of supply chain topics, from automation and robotics to manufacturing to data analytics to operational excellence. Plus, your employees will appreciate your investment in their future and feel more valued when they believe you are building a career for them at your organization.

And don’t limit training and education to equipment. Your shop floor will run more smoothly if everyone understands your policies regarding workplace harassment and proper communication. This ensures a more amicable and functional workplace.

6. Use factory automation. Consider automating some manufacturing processes. Even your most dedicated and skilled employees can get exhausted after a few hours of heavy labor, leading to reduced work consistency and increased risk of injury. The appropriate use of factory automation can dramatically increase manufacturing throughput. Automated production systems can outperform humans in terms of precision and the ability to perform repetitive tasks at a great speed. In the presence of smart machines, your staff can focus on planning, programming and other important tasks and leave the “heavy lifting” to the machines. Modern industrial technology makes it possible for you to produce a large number of products while meeting stringent quality control requirements and improve your workers’ quality of life by preventing them from having to do difficult and repetitive heavy labor. Strategic use of the right automated machines on your shop floor can have a great impact on your overall productivity and throughput.

All of these steps require company leaders to take a look at the big picture. Take a step back, then jump forward to meaningful improvements.

Learn more about operational excellence at the 2022 ASCM CONNECT Annual Conference

About the Author

Anne Mulvenna

Anne Mulvenna writes about technology, manufacturing and industry trends for clients and publications. She may be contacted at anne@folio44.com.

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