There are a lot of scary stories going around about the manufacturing sector in this country. According to some estimates, workers in the industry only seem to have a few years left of employment before “the machines” take over.
The effect that advancing technology is having on jobs in general is greatly exaggerated. 140 years of data actually suggest that technology advancement has created more jobs than it’s destroyed. Nevertheless, there are legitimate concerns about the safety of jobs in the manufacturing sector. Automatons do more in production lines than in pretty much any other area of business.
Still, over twelve million Americans are employed in this great industry. And while some jobs may be at risk, it’s not true that everyone has cause to panic. The reports of the impending robot takeover of this industry are greatly exaggerated! This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be taking action to try to help the workers.
One of the best ways to help protect this pursuit is by making your process more efficient. Efficiency is one of the biggest areas of concern for business owners in this field today. It always has been, of course. But in recent years it seems that it’s more of an acute worry than ever before. So here’s a quick guide to getting the most out of your production line.
Understanding your production line
A lot of business owners have a surprisingly small lack of knowledge about what it is they produce. I’m not talking about the end product, here. Business owners are sure to know about the product they’re selling in intimate detail. What I’m talking about here is the actual process of producing that item.
In order to get yourself in a good position to make improvements, you should make efforts to learn as much about the process as your employees. What raw materials does your product need? What is done to those materials? How much energy is used at each part of the process? If you know these things, you can locate areas where you can save money or reduce energy usage.
Collect data on the raw materials
Typically, the raw materials you have to use in your production process is the most expensive part of the whole deal. But it’s not as if you can do without the raw materials, right? They’re the things that your end product is actually made up of, after all.
So you need to know as much as possible about the raw materials your company uses. Unfortunately, there’s not much specific advice I can give to you on this subject. How each company uses their raw materials is different, even among companies making similar products. But if you have the right data, it can help you make some crucial efficiency-boosting decisions. Know exactly what is being done with the raw material at every step in the process. It will inform you about how much time and effort is required with this particular material. It will also let you know how much waste from the material is produced during each step. Once you know that, you can start making any improvements, if they’re needed.
Keep a close eye on sales
A lot of people in the factory won’t bother themselves too much about the actual sales of the end product. After all, aren’t you just making the things here? You’ll get orders detailing how much the consumers or clients want produced then you just go ahead and do it. Why do you need to know anything about the external sales on an intimate level?
The fact is that manufacturing companies often waste a lot of time by not monitoring sales properly. A business owner in this field should know exactly what’s going on sales-wise by monitoring market data. It’s amazing how many manufacturers find themselves surprised by rises or dips in sales. All of a sudden, for example, they need to produce a lot more this week than they did last week. If they weren’t monitoring sales properly, they might not have had the correct order of raw materials. They may even find themselves understaffed that week.
If sales are lower than expected, then this may also be useful knowledge for your factory. It might be prudent to slow down production if sales aren’t what they were initially expected to be. This will be of particular help to companies who are producing goods that will expire.
Making improvements on the end product
One of the best ways you can make your production line more efficient is by finding ways to improve on the end product. If you can heighten the overall quality of the item, then this has several positive effects. The most obvious is that it increases the satisfaction of the consumers who purchase it. A good way of measuring efficiency isn’t just to look at profits. It’s to gauge the satisfaction of the end user. (Of course, this can result in repeat sales or recommendations, which results in more money!)
You may think that making improvements on the product will result in increasing costs in several areas. This, of course, depends on precisely what it is you’re improving. There are actually a few ways you can improve products that in turn also improves the process. Let’s look at powder coating methods such as you can find at Reliant Finishing Systems, for example. Powder coating is cheaper than paint. It doesn’t release the unhealthy fumes that paint does. It also reduces waste.
Track your inventory as closely as you can
This ties in closely to the sales monitoring in many ways. What’s in your inventory is what determines what you can do at any given time. It’s not just about knowing exactly what materials you have on hand for immediate use. It’s about knowing what needs to be ordered (and what has already been ordered) and what problems exist with on-hand materials.
So why do people often neglect to track inventory as thoroughly as it needs? For some businesses, it’s because they don’t have the person-power. For others, it’s because it simply takes up too much time. You may want to look into some inventory tracking software if you want to improve efficiency in this area.