Every manufacturing facility is focused on finding spots where time, money or energy is being wasted. Oftentimes, this audit style focuses on individual components of a facility instead of how the components interact with each other. After you’ve optimized all of the various aspects of how your company produces and processes materials, look at the system as a whole. Often called process mapping, this practice helps to reduce downtime from station to station, maximize space and utilize energy effectively.
- Start small. A major overhaul of workflow could improve the first half of your production line but negatively affect the back half. Make gradual changes so as not to throw the entire system out of alignment.
- Consider the logical pathway. It seems like a small detail, but stations that are set up in a parallel fashion reduce the time needed to move products from one station to another.
- Invest in good workflow management software. If, for example, the shipping department at the end of the production line knows – via computer – that a new order just got started several steps back in the process, they can prep for the influx and reduce prep time getting packaging materials ready.
- Anticipate bottlenecks. Inevitably, some part of the manufacturing process will require finished goods or materials to be funneled to a more refined, narrow step in the chain. If so, consider investing in double the amount of machinery for that step. A quality control station, for example, would move faster with twice the machinery and twice the employees staffing it to keep the process moving smoothly.
- Conserve energy. Machines and systems that have high energy output can be bunched together and optimized by properly rerouting HVAC systems to keep them cool and conserve both energy and money. Other areas of the line, such as storage, may not need as much attention to HVAC.
With each step of the manufacturing process running smoothly and the logistics flow from Point A to Point Z fully optimized, you can automate your manufacturing systems and pay attention to other, more pressing issues in your business. Remember to keep refining your workflow to keep it in top shape, and encourage your teams to take workflow optimization seriously. What are some ways your business has optimized its workflow and processes?
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