4 Secrets for Boosting Productivity in Manufacturing

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If you own a manufacturing business, chances are you will have a list of things you want to change to make your operations run smoother. You have employees and your manufacturing floors and systems in place. You know they can all be improved, but where do you start?

When the options seem endless, it is a good idea to take a step back and reflect. We have selected the top four ways you can improve manufacturing productivity. See if your business is falling short in any of these areas. These prompts could kick-start some significant change in the way things are run. By implementing some of these changes, you will see improvements in productivity levels in your manufacturing business.

  1. How to improve productivity in manufacturing with your floor plan
  2. How to improve productivity in manufacturing with machinery
  3. How to improve productivity in manufacturing by fixing bottlenecks
  4. How to improve labour productivity in manufacturing

1. How to improve productivity in manufacturing with your floor plan

Optimal floor plan layout

When it comes to the optimal floor plan layout, you need a design that can produce what you need, at the quality you desire, with the best technique, but also at the best price tag. And of course, it needs to get made on time. We’ll look at some of the basic layouts and how they can be improved. Your layout needs to consider the equipment, machinery, employee workspace and type of manufacturing to ensure the production process is as efficient as possible.

Layout types and improvements

Process layouts

This type of layout groups employees together that perform similar tasks. At each position, employees use specialised equipment to perform a specific step in the production process.

  • Tip: Keep your equipment organised. Label pieces of equipment and make sure each tool has a place. This keeps productivity levels up since employees aren’t looking for lost tools throughout their day.

Product layouts

This layout is an assembly line style production where a high-volume of goods are produced. A series of workstations each add on a pre-assembled part.

  • Tip: Use cloud-based inventory control to manage your parts. If you’re out of one specific pre-assembled part, it will slow down the assembly productivity significantly.

Hybrid layouts

With a hybrid layout, small groups of employees manage all aspects of building a component, a “family of components,” or even a finished product.

  • Tip: Provide continued training and development for your employees so they know the best ways to work with these tools and products, so they keep things moving on the manufacturing floor.

Fixed position layouts

A layout that’s optimal for creating large items (such as boats or buildings) is a fixed position. It means it stays in one spot while the manufacturing team and equipment go to the product.

  • Tip: Have managers on the floor overseeing the team and thinking about the big picture. If there are any smaller issues, they can help problem solve.

Learn more: The Complete Guide to Improving Productivity in Manufacturing

machinery cogs Make sure your machines are well-maintained

2. How to improve productivity in manufacturing with machinery

Manufacturing machinery works hard to create your product. Even machines that are well-looked after and receive regular maintenance will still wear down over time. Yes, buying a new piece of machinery will be costly, but it will yield several benefits that will lead to overall improvements in your manufacturing productivity.

Technology and productivity

Technology is closely linked to manufacturing and as it improves, so does the manufacturing equipment used to make products. New equipment can lead to performance improvements on your manufacturing floor. If a machine is producing products faster, then you’ll be able to get them to market faster as well.

Going digital? Get the Manufacturing App Playbook and pick the right apps for planning, production, sales, CRM and more

Innovation and productivity

While new high-tech machines can be expensive when it comes to the installation and training, it can be very impactful over time. Newer manufacturing machinery has features and capabilities far greater than old machines. This means employees will evolve new skills and your products can stay on the cutting edge of innovation.

Insourcing for productivity gains

A new machine might also have capabilities to produce parts you had to previously outsource to a specialised company. This means you can keep to schedule and reduce time shipping parts around. There will be fewer backlogs and more capability within your own manufacturing space.

More business opportunities

If you can produce more of a product in a shorter time span, this can foster expansion. You can grow into new markets and grow your customer base as well.

The connection between safety and productivity

Not only can you be more productive and more innovative, but new machinery can keep your manufacturing staff safer. New technology means better safety features. More automated features mean less chance for human error.

Common hazards can be eliminated through the design of a new piece of machinery. Mechanical, electrical, heat, noise and vibration and substance hazards are a few of the machinery problems that can be mitigated when you invest in a new machine.

There are automatic shutdown options and sensor monitoring so accidents are significantly reduced with these mechanisms in place. It is no doubt that a safer workplace is going to be more productive workplace.

productivity bottlenecks Bottlenecks slow everything down

3. How to improve productivity in manufacturing by fixing bottlenecks

What is a bottleneck?

Bottlenecks happen when there is overcrowding in the manufacturing process and it slows a specific process down. This congestion in the production happens when work comes too quickly, and it overwhelms the production. When a bottleneck slows everything down it can cause delays and lead to an increase in production costs.

Short-term vs long-term bottlenecks

Short-term bottlenecks

Luckily, short-term bottlenecks happen temporarily. A backlog can build up when an employee or manager goes on holiday. Questions do not get answered or specific parts don’t get the final approval since no one else is qualified for this role.

Long-term bottlenecks

This is more common and stems from a fundamental delay. Either an employee is always late at delivering or there is simply too much work and not enough staff at one point in the manufacturing process.

Two workflow areas where bottlenecks happen

Performance bottlenecks

These are the people involved in your workflow. They can be your staff, contractors, suppliers, vendors or anyone else involved in your manufacturing process.

Check out the amount of time it takes for someone to do their portion of the process. Let’s say you always send off a part to get 3D printed. They quote one week for printing and delivery. However, the 3D printing vendor consistently sends it back after three weeks. They are causing a backlog in your process. It is time to look for a new 3D printing vendor as they are the bottleneck in your manufacturing productivity.

Systems bottlenecks

This part of the workflow includes all software and technology that plays a role. There might be specific programmes that play a role or manage your inventory and could impact your workflow if they were not running efficiently.

If the manufacturing process is experiencing a bottleneck due to a slow system or technology-based problem, then it is a system-based bottleneck. If users who interact with the software complain, then this could be the problem.

Process mapping to eliminate bottlenecks

Process mapping steps back and looks at the big picture. It analyses a workflow and shows if everything is flowing the way it should.

The process map can show you where bottlenecks are already happening or spots where they are likely to occur if something changes in the process.

To create a process map, you will need to have a flowchart of activities throughout your manufacturing journey. Estimate how long each process takes and this will help you take a closer look at where the bottlenecks may be appearing.

How to unclog your bottleneck

If you’ve identified the bottleneck and you’re keen to get rid of it, here are two of the most common options for getting rid of this problematic issue that’s been stopping your manufacturing productivity.

1. Increase efficiency at the site of the bottleneck

There is a demand for products to move through this stage faster. You can look to hire more staff to meet the need manually. Or you can look to automation to solve your bottleneck.

If it is a machinery problem, maybe investing in a new one is the right thing to do after all. If the software is slowing you down, it might be time for an upgrade or software that is more tailormade to your manufacturing needs.

2. Decrease inputs at the site of the bottleneck

If there are too many stages at one step of the process, it might be time to simplify. If it is a performer issue, you may need to change the approval process. Perhaps the approval process gets removed or more streamlined to once a week rather than haphazardly. If people going on holiday create backlogs, perhaps train two people in the responsibilities of this step so the responsibility can be shared.

manufacturing staff Staff play a key role in improving manufacturing productivity

4. How to improve labour productivity in manufacturing

“Organisations with a high level of engagement report 22% higher productivity.”
Gallup Organization

Your employees are one of your most valuable assets. When they have the right resources and they are engaged, they work better. Invest in your employees and engage them in your business. Here are four ways you can enhance your workplace culture to help your manufacturing productivity:

1. Focus on communication

Take your employees on the journey with you. Don’t keep secrets or tell staff they don’t get to know an answer to their question because “it’s not in their pay grade.” Without them you would not have a business.

Explain your processes and how they impact the big picture. A manufacturing employee might only interact with one step of the process. If you communicate how everything is working and where it’s coming from and going to, they will have a better understanding. This can build a deeper sense of purpose.

Don’t keep customers just to the customer service phone and in the retail environment. Have them come on a tour of the manufacturing facility and meet the people who make their product. If your staff see who is receiving it and the customer can let them know their opinions, it provides a much stronger level of engagement.

2. Give employees more responsibility

Since manufacturing is process-based, a lot of the work is already outlined for them. It can be very routine and monotonous. There is often little variety to an employee’s schedule on the manufacturing floor. This daily role can become mundane and potentially dampen engagement.

Look to where you can pass new responsibilities or management options to employees. Seek their feedback for improvements and get their input on floor plans. See where they want to develop their career and give them opportunities to teach others or host interest groups at work.

3. Establish a sense of accountability

Accountability can create higher engagement and gives employees a sense of purpose. Accountability is also key in the bottleneck scenarios. If people stay accountable for their work, they will take pride in their performance.

4. Make sure your staff feel valued

It is crucial to make sure employees have a purpose and see the value in their work and their efforts. They need to see the difference they are making and not feel like a cog in the wheel. Make sure your employees understand how they are an integral piece in the structure of your company.

Host events for your employees to allow them to get to know each other outside of work. Put on lunch once a month or put a gym into your facilities. Invest in the well-being and mental health of your employees by providing counselling services or paid mental health days. Ultimately, it is important to value your employees. If they feel valued, it will show with their productivity.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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