Four strategies to increase labour and equipment productivity in manufacturing

productivity

Image credit: SYSPRO.

Manufacturing in the 21st century is becoming more competitive than ever with margins getting tighter. The businesses in this sector are now having to look closely at their efficiencies and productivity and by re-evaluating the use of known technologies and considering newer relatively untried technologies to introduce competitive advantage to their organisations. 

Manufacturers require a complete reimagination of how to meet customer demands and expectations by transforming the core operations of their business. Significant changes are happening to the traditional shop floor, making it faster, more automated and more connected. Some manufacturers have realised that building the necessary digital backbone to their business will achieve new levels of productivity that will drive growth and profitability, but how are they doing it? 

Four ways to improve factory productivity 

Creating a digitally connected smart factory provides manufacturers with the ability to monitor and analyse multiple factory variables simultaneously including the performance of machines, people and processes. This enables them to find previously undetected problems and to identify strategies to make improvements. Here are four simple ways to enhance factory productivity. 

1. Measure and analyse labour and machine costs by shift, product, or operator 

It’s easy for costs to get out of control in a manufacturing or distribution business – money and time can be wasted with redundant processes, too much manual work and piles of paperwork. Spending days or even weeks trying to sift through spreadsheets will not be a good use of time to be able to compete in a fast-moving global market. 

2. Identify unnecessary downtime and help to reduce bottlenecks

Downtime can have a very deep and lasting impact on the bottom line and can even drive manufacturers out of business. Often downtime is due to bottlenecks, so identifying them is the first step. Many bottlenecks have similar root causes, such as staff underperformance, problems with a machine, supply chain issues, poor raw materials planning, or poor ergonomics or machine layout on the factory floor. When a bottleneck slows everything down it can cause delays and result in an increase to production costs.  

3. Measure product quality and highlight problem machines or labour issues 

It’s important to drive world-class manufacturing standards within the factory by measuring equipment and labour effectiveness and performance. This ultimately delivers higher quality products that drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. What is required is a detailed analysis of individual equipment and people performance with supporting data including audit trails and a record of the issues encountered. 

4. Measure operational efficiencies and highlight areas needing attention 

Manufacturers over the years have continued to strive for operational efficiency, even though a significant improvement would require a fundamental shift in their business model. Some manufacturers have implemented programs like Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and focused on improving Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) with the same aim of streamlining manufacturing process and increasing output. 

While TPM is an equipment maintenance model that strives to use everyone to maintain the plant, it also aims to achieve perfect production with no breakdowns, slow running or any other machine related problem that affects throughput. OEE is a metric that measures how well the machine is being utilised (uptime), the speed of the machine (speed) and the quality of the production. OEE supports TPM based initiatives by measuring progress towards “perfect production”. 

The role of a MOM 

Using a Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) solution will assist manufacturers to continuously improve their productivity and processes while aiming for best-in-class standards. Most importantly a MOM solution provides an overall view of the manufacturing operations.  

MOM helps organisations to generate accurate production schedules that consider capacity constraints like people, machines, tooling as well as materials and can help identify production lines that need to be rescheduled to match changing customer demand, balancing available capacity. The result is an improved delivery to customers on-time and in full. 

In preparation for such a change, manufacturers should also begin encouraging a culture that sees data as an asset for better decision-making. With a central database provided by an ERP system that is integrated with a MOM system, manufacturers can begin accelerating their move to a smart factory.  

Consequently, they will be able to collect production data in real time, which makes it possible for manufacturers to optimise their production activities from product creation to final production. Manufacturers that want to gain visibility and control of their shop floor execution and quality, should consider implementing MOM to build on the capabilities provided by their ERP. 

The process of digitalising a manufacturing operation will enable manufacturers to develop entirely new categories of products, creating new alternatives for customers, while keeping ahead of existing and new competitors. Those that deploy a MOM can ensure they make best use of their available capacity to deliver to customers faster and in the most cost-effective way whilst lowering production costs. 

By Rob Stummer, Asia Pacific CEO at SYSPRO.