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Manufacturing Tomorrow

Manufacturing Tomorrow


How to Increase Manufacturing Productivity in 2018 Without Adding Labor Costs

Jun 25, 2018
By: Mark Stevens

Increase Manufacturing Productivity

Increasing productivity and output has been the pursuit of every manufacturer since the dawn of the industrial age. Through the years, technological strides have been made as well as improvements in processes and workflows to boost production levels to new heights.

There’s no silver bullet that has made efficiencies possible; assembly lines, robotics, LEAN initiatives, software, predictive analytics, and more have all worked in cooperation to catapult many manufacturers to levels of productivity thought to be impossible only a couple decades ago.

The need for speed hasn’t slowed. In fact, the skilled labor shortage has brought renewed pressure on many enterprises to optimize productivity among existing employees even further. Doing so without paying more in overtime and overworking already stressed workers is a challenge, however. The risks of decreased morale as a result could lead to the loss of good workers in an already tight market.

Here are six practical ways facilities can create more output on the manufacturing floor without adding more output in labor costs.

1. Maximize Your Continuous Improvement Approach

Many organizations implemented a continuous improvement approach years ago and haven’t revisited the concept since. Like all methodologies, attitudes and approaches can evolve over time, and it’s a good idea to assess the efforts currently being made within your enterprise to ensure your continuous improvement strategies are still working for your current business model, production setup, products and services, and workforce.

Take a fresh look at competitors in your industry to asses any updated best practices; look for opportunities for improvement, and consider enlisting the help of consultants who can offer an outside perspective to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses. They’ll help you identify and prioritize which problems need to be addressed first to achieve results faster, and provide ways to measure those results using analytics and metrics based on real-time data. Small improvements and accomplishments can make a major difference, and the updated initiatives can fuel engagement among employees and bode well in your efforts to attract new ones when needed.

2. Stay Organized

Clutter can be distracting and cause confusion. Studies indicate a cluttered environment leads to less efficient thinking and visual processing. Keeping an organized workplace also contributes to lower stress levels and mental wellbeing. Satisfied employees are inevitably more prone to high performance levels. Set up protocols and processes for keeping tools and materials in their places. Invest in the necessary shelving, compartments, systems, and tools to make everything easily accessible, and enforce policies for putting everything in its place. Organization is also important for digital data, so use a robust system for maintaining and storing everything in an orderly manner with easy search functions. Eliminating wasted time searching for documents—everything from purchase orders and HR records to equipment manuals and delivery tickets—can significantly improve productivity.

3. Invest in Monitoring Software

You may have already implemented an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, which is one of the most effective ways to improve efficiencies across departments. Much like methodologies surrounding continuous improvement, ERP systems have evolved over time as well. Modern technologies are more user-friendly and intuitive than they used to be, and the learning curve is much easier. Not only do modern ERP systems allow workers to collaborate across departments and see their performance levels in real time, they also can predict where bottlenecks may occur in the future. This allows users to anticipate capacity, inventory needs and other factors that could impact production.

Machine monitoring software is the best way to proactively address equipment performance. The latest technology can monitor vibration, temperature, and other performance indicators to predict when maintenance should be performed in order to maximize uptime. A report can identify which machines produce the most scrap or experience the most downtime, helping to address poor equipment performance or potential breakdowns.

Machine monitoring software can also measure ramp-up time between shifts and identify opportunities for improvement. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know that your second shift workers are able to get a machine up and running 15 minutes faster than the previous shift? Leveraging this type of data can help you identify efficiencies among workers so you can replicate them elsewhere.

4. Provide Education

The age of digital information and 24/7 news cycles have turned many of us into lifelong learners who seek knowledge. The same holds true for workers on your shop floor and other departments. Encourage them to pursue additional education related to your industry, whether through online learning, conferences, lunch ‘n’ learns, or courses offered through a technical college. The skills they learn can be valuable assets to your organization, and employees will appreciate opportunities to bring their newly acquired skills back to your facility to advance business goals—and their careers.

5. Help Employees Find the Right Fit

A manufacturer can invest enormous amounts of capital in state-of-the-art equipment, facilities, and software and still not reap the benefits if its leadership is not on board with new initiatives, or if a small group of workers isn’t pulling their weight. Sometimes difficult decisions need to be made to ensure a company’s progress isn’t being impeded by negative or unwilling players.

Companies need to make sure employees are a fit for the organization’s goals and empower them to do their work by providing the tools they need. High-performers must be given the opportunity to excel and contribute to critical business functions. It’s estimated 15 percent of any given company’s workforce are star players, but their effectiveness is often limited because they’re unable to expand beyond their assumed roles.

6. Inspire Your Team

Every worker longs for an atmosphere in which they can’t wait to come into work each day. Sadly, many workers are indifferent about the value their efforts bring to an organization. What are you doing to inspire your team to perform? A positive and engaging work environment isn’t just good for morale; it’s good for business. It’s estimated that inspired employees are 125 percent more productive than employees who are merely satisfied in their roles.

Effective leaders know how to align a team’s innate desire for purpose and value with the task at hand to build a positive culture and better outcomes. Invest in leadership training for your managers at every level and encourage a culture of teamwork and accountability that allows everyone to excel.

Optimizing productivity within an organization requires a multi-faceted approach involving people, processes, and the latest technology. Manufacturers must look closely at all these elements in order to produce more quality goods and services without adding to labor costs or stressing out workers if they want to scale their businesses and maintain a competitive advantage.

At Wipfli, we can help identify areas of improvement in all three and implement benchmarks and best practices to help your organization succeed. Reach out to Wipfli for a no-cost consultation today.


Mark Stevens
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