The road to manufacturing optimization is riddled with bumps, potholes, detours, and the occasional wrong turn. And while achieving 100% production efficiency is not realistic, it’s the pursuit that drives any Manufacturing Operations Manager. Companies who understand operational efficiency know that it is a continuous journey of improvement rather than a destination. And every step in that direction pays huge dividends.
There are many obstacles, internal and external, to an efficient manufacturing process. Consequently, finding even modest improvements can present big challenges. Some of these challenges include:
Human and Machine Limitations
Manufacturing processes rely on human labor and machines, both of which can be subject to inconsistency and limitations. Human errors, absenteeism, machine breakdowns, and other unexpected events will disrupt even the best operations.
Most manufacturing processes are subject to inherent irregularity in materials, environmental conditions, and other factors. This variability can lead to inefficiencies and product defects.
Changeover and Setup Time
Switching from one product or production run to another requires changeovers and setup times. This can cause excessive downtime and inefficiencies when not performed effectively.
Maintenance and Repairs
Machines and equipment require maintenance and repairs. Unscheduled downtime is a production killer.
Ineffective Quality Assurance
Ensuring product quality may require additional time and resources which can impact efficiency.
Supply Chain and Inventory Management
Many manufacturers are diversifying their supply chain. While this may help mitigate the impact of future disruptions, managing suppliers and inventory levels can be complex and inefficient.
Economic and Market Factors
Economic fluctuations, market demand changes, and other external factors can disrupt manufacturing operations.
Limited resources, such as skilled labor, raw materials, and capital, can restrict efficiency improvements.
Strategies for Improvement
Driven to minimize waste, reduce costs, improve product quality, and enhance productivity, manufacturers are tackling these and other challenges head-on. By improving processes, embracing new strategies, and adopting proven technologies, these companies are making some big strides toward maximum operational efficiency. This may include lean manufacturing practices, automation, process optimization, quality control methods, just-in-time production, and more.
Here are some of the areas every manufacturer should evaluate while striving to continually move the needle toward 100% operational efficiency.
Manufacturers invest heavily in capital equipment with the objective of advancing production, efficiency, and quality. But those investments will only pay off if that equipment is online and running at peak performance. Similarly, those hoping to add or upgrade equipment must be able to demonstrate that current equipment is operating at capacity.
Here are some things to consider.
- Scheduled Maintenance: Regular maintenance is crucial in preventing costly breakdowns. A maintenance schedule, which includes routine inspections, lubrication, and part replacements will reduce the risk of extended, unexpected downtime. Whenever possible, maintenance should be scheduled for off-hours so as not to impact production.
- Predictive Maintenance: One of the most effective ways to maximize manufacturing uptime and reduce unexpected downtime is by implementing predictive maintenance programs. This approach optimizes the performance of machinery. Using sensors and data analysis provides the information to predict when equipment is likely to fail and schedule maintenance accordingly.
- Parts Management: Having an inventory of critical components readily available reduces the time required for repairs and minimizes downtime. An accurate Spare Parts Management system can save from 5 to 15% on spare parts inventory costs.
Advanced manufacturing technology has become more accessible, you don’t have to be a global enterprise with deep pockets to leverage it. Today’s tools automate processes, integrate systems, and monitor activities. Here are some ways to leverage technology on the production floor.
- IIoT and Industry 4.0: Embrace the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 technologies to create smart factories. These technologies enable real-time data collection and analysis, predictive maintenance, and the optimization of manufacturing processes.
- Equipment Monitoring: Implement equipment monitoring systems that provide real-time insights into the condition and performance of machinery. These systems monitor throughput, downtime, and performance allowing corrective action to be made. They also provide the information to formulate and validate long-term improvement strategies.
- Automation: Automation and robotics can significantly boost throughput and reduce downtime. These systems lessen the risk of human error and can operate all day every day, enhancing manufacturing efficiency.
Continuous Improvement is the driving force behind enhancing manufacturing processes. It focuses on the relentless pursuit of efficiency by transforming raw metrics into actionable strategies. These actions can advance Operational Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and boost productivity. Here are some of the most effective manufacturing process strategies.
- Root Cause Analysis: When unexpected downtime occurs, conducting a root cause analysis is essential. This process helps identify the underlying issues and allows for corrective actions to be taken, preventing the same problem from recurring.
- Lean Manufacturing Principles: Implementing lean manufacturing principles can streamline processes, reduce waste, and improve efficiency. For optimum effectiveness consider a combined Lean Manufacturing/Production Monitoring approach.
- Quality Control: High-quality products have fewer defects and require less rework, leading to increased throughput. Implement strict quality control measures to catch flaws early in the production process, reducing downtime associated with rework.
- Data Analytics: Leverage data analytics to gain insights into your manufacturing process. Analyzing data can help you identify trends, performance issues, and areas for improvement. This information can guide decision-making and process optimization.
- Inventory Optimization: Maintain optimal inventory levels to avoid overstocking and understocking. Excess inventory ties up capital, while insufficient inventory can lead to production stoppages. Employ just-in-time (JIT) or Kanban systems to minimize waste and optimize stock levels.
- Cost Analysis: Regularly analyze the costs associated with downtime. This information can help justify investments in equipment, technology, and processes aimed at reducing downtime and boosting throughput.
- Sustainability: Implement green programs such as energy management, zero waste, and similar sustainability programs to optimize energy and water usage within the facility. This not only reduces operating costs but also contributes to ESG objectives.
People are the lifeblood of your operation. Often, however, the human factor is overlooked when creating improvement strategies. Here are some ways to ensure that you’re leveraging your most valuable assets.
- Value Employees: Involve employees in decision-making and process improvement initiatives. Engaged employees are more likely to be motivated and proactive in preventing downtime. Also, consider implementing a rewards and recognition program. Research shows that drawing attention to performance boosts morale substantially.
- Change Management: Employ effective change management strategies when introducing new processes or technologies. Minimize resistance from employees by providing the necessary training and addressing concerns promptly.
- Training & Skills Development: Well-trained employees are more likely to operate machinery efficiently and address minor issues before they escalate. Cross-training employees to perform multiple roles within the organization allows you to assign resources to areas of need quickly, reducing downtime.
The Pursuit of Excellence
While total operational efficiency might be a challenging benchmark to attain, it continues to be the guiding star for most manufacturers. By embracing a comprehensive approach that incorporates continuous improvement, strategic technology investments, effective maintenance programs, and a steadfast commitment to employee engagement, manufacturing companies can move closer to achieving their goals. Contact Worximity to learn how we can help.