8 Ways to Increase Productivity on the Manufacturing Floor

Shane Strowski, president of Precision Waterjet & Laser lists eight tips to help increase shop-floor success.

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Regardless of the size of your business, boosting productivity is essential to enhancing gross profits and maintaining competitiveness. Productivity on the manufacturing floor depends on a combination of efficient employees, equipment and processes. Driving improvement in all of these areas involves examining the current practices in place and making adjustments to systems, employee training and even the equipment used to generate parts and components.

Before you can adopt any method for productivity improvement, you'll need to measure your existing output levels, create a baseline and implement solutions for measuring change. Shane Strowski, president of Precision Waterjet & Laser lists the following eight steps to help you design a more productive and successful manufacturing floor for your business.

  • Examine the Existing Workflow. The first step is all about identifying pain points in your current workflow. Analyze the people, technology and processes required for production–as well as the procedures, communication tools and resources available across the company. Consider using value mapping as an effective solution for identifying and monitoring projects for process improvement; this strategy enables managers to pinpoint issues and record how changes impact the overall system.
  • Update Business Processes. Share current workflow problems with project managers to develop improvement plans for the manufacturing process. This could mean re-assigning resources to different areas of the manufacturing floors, managing budgets or becoming ISO certified. Be sure to systematically evaluate performance and interpret any appropriate changes.
  • Invest in Continued Employee Education. The manufacturing, machining and cutting industries are constantly changing–there’s always a new technology promising to make manufacturing floors more efficient than ever. Technological advancements often change the skills required for certain tasks, and workers will require access to regular training to keep up with more advanced specialist skills.
  • Have Realistic Expectations. Client expectations, pressures regarding production and strict deadlines can contribute to unrealistic goals. When workload benchmarks on the manufacturing floor are unattainable without some compromise to safety or quality, employees become dissatisfied, preventing the company from reaching labor goals. To boost worker efficiency, it's important to set realistic, clearly defined objectives that ensure a combination of punctuality, high-quality output and safe procedures.
  • Get Smarter Machining Tools. Manufacturing is an industry in which an employee can only be as productive as his or her tools. While innovative machines, such as waterjet machines or CNC mills, can be costly in terms of initial setup and training, advanced equipment can have a positive long-term effect. Manufacturing companies often find that a machinery upgrade helps them stay competitive in a new and innovative market.
  • Invest in Maintenance. There's a link between the costs associated with downtime and the time and budget invested into preventive measures. While new equipment can boost productivity, it also requires maintenance to ensure that it continues working at an optimum level. It is important that employees know how to troubleshoot instances of system downtime, to quickly find root causes of errors. Don't be too quick to blame the tool for problems–remember to think about the process, the blueprint, the material and more.
  • Stay Organized. The number of lost dollars and wasted man-hours that result from a lack of organization can be surprising. One surefire way to enhance productivity in any environment is to ensure there’s a well-organized place for everything–from materials, to machine tools and documents. When organizing your work area, think about the layout of your machining equipment and tools and whether they currently maximize efficiency. If not, consider rearranging your manufacturing floor to create a smoother workflow.
  • Encourage Collaboration. The manufacturing floor is most productive when everyone works together towards the same goal with as little waste and conflict as possible. While focusing on work is important, it's also crucial to ensure that each staff member feels comfortable as part of a team. The better the members of your team can work together, the more they will encourage a productive workplace culture.