ManufacturingThis coming January, people around the world will make New Year’s resolutions, committing to making a change for the better in 2019. Some pledge to work out, others to save more or spend less, some to get more sleep. The options are endless. Sadly, 80 percent of those resolutions will fail by February.

If you’ve resolved to improve production at your manufacturing facility—whether your facility needs a major overhaul or just some small tweaks here and there—don’t be part of that group that fails by February. Here are six resolutions to make for productivity increases that you can keep all year long.

#1 – Review Your Existing Workflow

You won’t know what should or even can be changed until you know how everything works right now. There are three areas that contain critical information to help you identify needed changes:

  • People – Do you have people with the right skills in the right places? Do you have a project manager to keep the critical pathway visible and on track? Are objectives clearly defined, realistic, and safe?
  • Processes – When was the last time you mapped your processes? Have you used value stream mapping to assess process improvement projects? Where are the pain points and bottlenecks?
  • Equipment and technology – Is all your equipment in good repair? Is the technology you rely on optimal for your current needs? How easy is it to make changes in production?

Not everything will need fixing. If your processes as they stand now are in good order, then there’s no reason to create upheaval to make unnecessary changes. Unless there is a clear financial or safety reason for making a change, you should think long and hard before changing anything.

#2 – Update Processes and Technology

After reviewing and mapping your existing workflow, start identifying areas where processes and/or technology could use some updates or changes. Processes that have been in place for a long time may be riddled with workarounds that were created when new equipment was added or production methods changed.

  • Automation is a powerful tool for increasing efficiency and reducing error.
  • New software solutions can help with scheduling, inventory, and monitoring workflow.
  • Improvements in equipment can improve production speed and quality.

When identifying new technology and equipment, look at the total cost of ownership and how the bottom line will be affected. A high initial expense may be worth it if the total cost of ownership is lower than the technology or process you are replacing, and if it solves a problem such as a clearing a production bottleneck or reducing scrap.

#3 – Commit to Scheduled Maintenance

Much like keeping up with oil changes and tire rotations on your car keeps it running better longer, you don’t want to get caught ignoring regular maintenance in your production facility either. Downtime for maintenance costs much less than downtime due to broken and worn equipment. Maintenance can be scheduled; breakage always comes at the worst possible time.

  • Train all operators in regular maintenance and troubleshooting procedures.
  • Schedule preventive maintenance at regular intervals.
  • Identify the best time for maintenance by using information from the floor and your workflow processes.
  • Don’t delay maintenance.

Preventive maintenance ensures that your equipment continues to run smoothly, without unexpected downtime or work stoppage.

#4 – Train and Educate Employees

There are some education and training courses that you run annually, such as safety training, but consider that employee education should be an ongoing process, especially when new equipment or technology is involved. Training and education ensure your employees not only know how to use the new tools, but also get the best value out of using them. Employee education is also an excellent retention tactic; new employees take time to become proficient, causing a slowdown in production.

  • Schedule training sessions for all operators when new equipment is installed.
  • Keep accurate records of training and schedule refreshers, if needed.
  • Offer educational opportunities for employees who wish to advance or obtain new skills.

Don’t limit training and education to equipment. Your manufacturing facility will run more smoothly if everyone understands your policies on workplace harassment and proper communications.

#5 – Organize the Workspace

Reducing movement and clutter saves time. Excess movement is a sign of poor organization and can cost you plenty in production time. Consider techniques such as Kanban (just-in-time production) to reduce delays and increase efficiency.

  • Reduce movement for optimal task efficiency.
  • Create the optimal layout of tools and materials for the job or process.
  • Remove unneeded or unused tools and materials from the work-space.
  • Create organized storage to reduce time to find materials, documents, and equipment.
  • Layout the manufacturing floor to maximize efficiency.

Reduce travel time and distance wherever possible. If a product must be moved from one machine to another, is there a way to shorten the distance, orient the product, or move the product more quickly (safely) to the next step in the process? Is there a software solution that could improve scheduling?

#6 – Maintain Optimal Inventory

When you have excess inventory, you still maintain hopes of using or selling it all, and thus will need a place to store it. If you don’t have enough inventory, you could face a work stoppage while you wait for more. Optimizing inventory is especially important if you are following lean manufacturing principles such as the previously mentioned Kanban technique. This will take some careful consideration and planning.

  • Use software to track inventory and create automatic notifications of shortages. You may be able to allow vendors direct access to your inventory counts and automatically fulfill needed supplies.
  • Create favored vendor relationships to gain accountability for the quality of parts and timeliness of deliveries.
  • Make predictions about the impact of particular shortages and put processes in place to mitigate production delays.

Keep track of rejection rates, declining quality, and late deliveries so you can rectify them with the vendor or find a new one. If you know one of your vendors is undergoing an extensive change such as a sale to another company, request assurances and guarantees that your deliveries will continue as before.

Increased productivity should be driven by deliberate change rather than rapid “fixes” that may help in the short term but cause long-term problems. Also, increasing productivity on the backs of employees can result in burn-out and turnover as well as costly safety problems.

Make Your Resolutions

There’s one more thing that can help you keep these resolutions all year long: the right consulting partner. Accounting Systems, Inc. (ASI) has the proven business strategies and software products to support your resolutions and promote growth in 2019 and beyond. With ongoing support, maintenance, implementation, and training, ASI can ensure that your business software runs exactly as it should to help you hold up your New Year’s Resolutions into March and beyond. See how we can help.