Tips on Streamlining Your Manufacturing Process

Every manufacturing line is unique. There are different challenges to face and multiple workflows to deal with them; choosing the best workflows to use means taking into account factors such as the products you are manufacturing, the scale of your operation, and more. Nevertheless, the one challenge that every manufacturing process faces today is achieving maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

With the market being as competitive as it is today, maintaining manufacturing process efficiency and effectiveness is of paramount importance. Every little improvement is worth pursuing; every little change is worth exploring. While there are specific ways to optimize specific manufacturing lines, in this article we are going to focus more on the general tips and tricks to help you get started.

Master the Know-How

Lean manufacturing is a field worth learning about, especially now that there are programs that offer a lean manufacturing degree online. Top universities like Kettering University Online are making it easy to pursue lean manufacturing degrees from the comfort of your own home in as little as one year.

The program essentially teaches you key engineering concepts, management principles, and manufacturing line design and development, all of which will help you optimize your own manufacturing line further. You will also learn about production in general, particularly about subjects such as automation and supply chain.

Many business owners and professionals in the manufacturing sector return to school for a lean manufacturing degree because of the skills and knowledge they can pick up in the process. You too can make the same decision or simply recruit team members with a Master of Science in lean manufacturing as a way to begin your optimization efforts.

Implement the Best Practices

There are two main practices you have to start implementing in order to optimize and streamline your manufacturing process. The first one is keeping the entire operations in sync.

I’m not just talking about the manufacturing line itself, but rather the entire company. Manufacturing efficiency can be achieved when engineering, sales, purchasing, and finance departments — as well as other stakeholders — can work together in a seamless way.

The second is evaluation at every turn. Optimizing your manufacturing line isn’t just about making big changes, adding new machinery, or changing the approach to manufacturing completely. In fact, it isn’t about all of these things most of the time.

Instead, streamlining is best done through smaller evaluations, constant improvement, and refinement in the individual processes within the manufacturing line. The deeper you go with details and small parts of the process, the more you can refine the process one small part at a time.

Aim for Incremental Optimization

Since the best approach to optimizing manufacturing processes is by looking into smaller parts of the operation, the best way to implement the necessary changes is in small increments as well. As mentioned before, it is much better to make small changes in a continuous way rather than waiting until a big change can be made.

Small, incremental updates will lead to major optimizations nonetheless. The small changes you make here and there will eventually add up to a big improvement to the entire manufacturing process. Shaving a few seconds from every step in the manufacturing line, for instance, is more than enough to increase your manufacturing output by double-digit.

While making small and incremental changes, you will also come across ways to really push the entire workflow forward. A good example is when you are looking into reducing the time needed by each part of the manufacturing process. This step often leads to the discovery of new solutions, better machinery, and alternatives such as automation and design improvement of the product itself.

Leverage Technology

Speaking of automation, technology in general is your friend when it comes to optimizing the manufacturing workflow. Automation alone can help improve the efficiency level of manufacturing lines by a whopping 100%. By eliminating the need for human input in some repetitive (often mundane) tasks in the manufacturing line, you are freeing up resources for other parts of the process.

General Motors did this with their engine assembly line. Instead of relying on workers to apply a silicon seal, the factory moved to automation to boost efficiency by 120%. Automation, with the help of robotics and other technologies, also minimized production errors and allowed the entire engine assembly line to be more efficient.

By taking seconds off the time required to combine two engine blocks together, GM was able to bump up production of its small-block V8 engine by a substantial margin. As a result, costs can be brought down and consumption of resources was lowered to a more efficient level. The lack of hiccups in the manufacturing line helps with efficiency too.

Use Data to Your Advantage

There are reasons why data is considered to be very valuable today. Through data collection and analysis, it is easy to find more ways to streamline the manufacturing process, particularly ways that weren’t accessible when you don’t have the right insights.

A look at production history and sales trends, for example, allows management to fine-tune production levels at different times. Rather than producing a constant amount of output at all times, manufacturing lines can make adjustments to their production levels according to market demand and other inputs.

The same can be said for when one manufacturing line is handling multiple products or variations of products. Waiting times can be substantially reduced by utilizing demand and sales insights to dictate the manufacturing process. At the same time, the approach reduces the cost of storing inventory over an extended period of time.

To top it all off, you can also tap into big data and gain a better insight of the market as a whole. Corporate data, combined with big data, can help efforts in streamlining manufacturing lines like never before. Combined with the other optimization tips we discussed in this article, it is easy to push the entire manufacturing line to a new level of efficiency. Streamlining the rest of the manufacturing workflow according to your specific needs should also be easy once you have implemented the tips we discussed in this article.

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