Continuous Improvement is critical for a company to keep thriving, especially for food manufacturers. Being in an industry that has both a direct responsibility for people’s health and thin profit margins, food manufacturers should always be aiming to improve product quality and process efficiency. Adopting methodologies, such as Six Sigma, and habits aimed for improvement will allow you to grow and have a better impact with clients and consumers. It is important to tailor your Continuous Improvement program to fit your needs and engage your employees in it.
Providing employees with ownership of changes to come is important. Listening to your employees and working closer with them will allow you to create a program that focuses on people’s growth and not only on the activities you want them to perform. A program that incentives teamwork and engagement will successfully change a culture to one that contains Continuous Improvement as a foundation. Since Continuous Improvement is all about streamlining work and reducing waste, it positively affects your company in many different ways.
Here are some of the impacts a successful Continuous Improvement program can have in your company:
- Reduced Downtime: training employees, stronger quality control systems and real-time downtime data tracking, for example, are common Continuous Improvement investments. Efforts like these will allow a company to detect downtime causes and solve them quicker. Engaging operators with upper management teams will incentivize them to be on the lookout and share information. Offering visibility into KPIs and deviations in manufacturing processes will allow for an easier assessment of downtime causes and opportunities to address these events in a timely manner. In the long run, your plants’ downtime will reduce.
- Higher Throughput: throughput can be improved in many ways, one being the previous point of reduced downtime. Real-time monitoring of manufacturing processes helps in identifying bottlenecks and downtime events. These two are the main components to calculating throughput. As slow machines are replaced or enhanced, and root causes of downtime are taken care of, throughput will naturally increase. Continuous Improvement streamlines processes and reduces waste, and doing so will always improve throughput due to its correlation with these factors.
- Increased Equipment Availability: being the ‘probability of any equipment not experiencing downtime’ - availability is linked to the two previous points. As deviations and halts in manufacturing are easily identified and solved, machinery will become more available which therefore increases productivity and throughput. Also, stronger maintenance procedures will turn machinery into more reliable ones. Reliability is the ‘probability any equipment has of breaking down’, which is one of the key improvement areas in Continuous Improvement.
- Better Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): OEE is one of the most important metrics in manufacturing. It is commonly used in Continuous Improvement efforts to analyze a production’s plant efficiency. As equipment availability improves, due to the many Continuous Improvement actions, OEE will increase. OEE is calculated from three different metrics: Performance, Quality and Availability. There cannot be major improvements in machinery performance and quality if they are not available. Because machine availability naturally increases with Continuous Improvement efforts, OEE as a whole will also increase.
- Better Yield: higher equipment availability and employee training will allow for better use of resources. Better demand forecasting, stricter quality control systems and conscious energy saving will allow your company to make the most out of its resources while reducing expenses. A higher productivity will yield a larger number of high-quality products that will make a positive impact within the market.
As you may see, Continuous Improvement efforts have positive effects in different areas. However, these areas are usually interconnected through overlapping metrics. Because of this, a Continuous Improvement mindset in your company is very important. Having one will allow you and your employees to have a positive impact on the company’s operations in a daily and natural manner.
Continuous Improvement is a crucial concept for manufacturers. It is a strive for efficiency and productivity while reducing costs and waste. If done correctly, Continuous Improvement will naturally have positive effects in all areas of your company. As Continuous Improvement improves one aspect of operations, other aspects will be positively affected by this and improve production overall, as is the case with Equipment Availability and OEE.