Understanding Throughput

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By Emilie A Lachance - July 15, 2019

Throughput is a key that concept everyone working at a production plant needs to understand. It is one of the many metrics that tell us how well a manufacturing plant is running. In his article The 12 Most Important Metrics to Measure in Manufacturing for Matthews Intelligent Identification, an Australian leader company in product coding, inspection and traceability, Matt Nichol states that throughput “is one of the simplest — yet most important — manufacturing metrics”. Throughput is known to measure the average number of units being produced on a machine, line, unit plant over a specified period of time. It is the quantity of material (input) that is processed and turned into a desired part or final product (output) over a time period. 

We can think of throughput as a fraction, where 

Throughput = Units produced/Time

Time can be seconds, minutes, hours or days. It all depends on the manufacturing scale and what you think is appropriate to understand production and analyze later.

A Throughput Example

For example: If a brewery line produces 6,000 cans of beer an hour, then its throughput is 100 cans per minute. 

At another scale, if a car manufacturer assembles a car every 21 hours in one of its plants, then its throughput could be thought of as 8 cars per week.

Why is Throughput Important?

We have now explained what is throughput, but why is it so important? What makes it the most important manufacturing metric as Matt Nichol says? Throughput is able to tell us how well our manufacturing plan is performing. It is a synonym to production rate, or rate of output, which quantifies how fast products are being produced and therefore give us an insight into our production efficiency.

Businesses with high throughput levels can take market share away from businesses with lower levels because higher throughput means that a product or service is produced more efficiently and reaches the costumer faster.

In fact, throughput can be the difference between:

  • Meeting your production goals and missing your targets
  • Having a competitive advantage and falling behind
  • Keeping your customers and losing them to someone who can produce more / better / faster

Throughput is also closely related to capacity, the maximum production rate a production line or machine can achieve. Assumptions can be made about capacity by analyzing throughput. Think about a machine’s capacity as its production rate when it is running without any inconveniences whatsoever non-stop.

Throughput (Units / Time) becomes very useful when it is defined by a third variable. For instance, throughput of a production line, or of a factory or of a defined number of workers. Throughput becomes the core statistic measured against any number of other variables that you can control, measure and test against. This is what enables efficiency improvements to be performed in a scientific manor.

Interested in improving throughput in your factory?  Request a demo and see for yourself how Smart Factory Analytics can improve core productivity KPIs such as throughput.


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The Worximity Smart Food Factory solution is a low-cost hardware system that can be up and running in a few hours combined with an easy and intuitive yet powerful analytics dashboard that provides fast ROI to start and a roadmap to full-on IIoT success.

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