When people say you should reduce material waste in manufacturing, that can seem a little vague. You should give some thought to how many different types of materials are used in the manufacturing process. It’s not all as obvious as you may think!
Here are the main categories in which conservation is possible and important.
Direct raw materials
When you think of raw materials in manufacturing, this is probably what you’re thinking about. A lot of people in the businesses may also call these commodities, although that term can be a little vague. Put simply, the direct raw materials make up the bulk of the finished product. More pertinently to this subject, they’re the materials that can easily be counted. Once an amount is used, it’s easy to subtract the used amount from the inventory.
Let’s say your company makes cars. The metal that you used to make the frame is easily quantifiable (it can be measured and weighed, for example). Once it’s used, you can easily take the amount of metal used away from the amount of metal in your inventory. You can also easily trace the used metal to the specific product made. With this in mind, tight management of inventory is key to reducing waste here.
Indirect raw materials
Indirect raw materials are the materials that cannot be so easily traced or quantified. Generally, they’re things that you use an immeasurable amount of during the production of a given product. Let’s go back to the car example. The paint you put on the car, as well as any wax or other shining agents, would be an indirect raw material. You could try to subtract the paint you used on the car from the amount of paint you have in the inventory. But that would be incredibly difficult, not to mention counterproductive.
This is the area in which you may find yourself more concerned about spillage. This, of course, will seem like a very small amount of waste when it does occur. But it does all add up in the end. It’s why many factories use alternatives that aren’t so easily spilled. For example, powder coating often sees at least 95% utilization, whereas wet paint spills result in much less.
When you consider the operation as a whole, you’ll also need to account for the more office-oriented wastes. Planning departments that deal in the logistics of the manufacturing will usually be using a lot of paper, for example.
Of course, people have spoken about the “mythical paperless” office for years. Generally, it all boils down to dramatically reducing paper usage. The problem is that people don’t often go far enough. The very use of paper is often unrequired, a complete waste in itself. But a manufacturing paperless shop floor is possible if you’re using the right logistics software.
Yes, that stuff that keeps your factory running! No doubt it’s being used in sheer abundance. As you probably know, there are countless ways in which electricity use can be reduced in a factory. The problem is knowing exactly what it is your factory needs to do. After all, every factory is different!
There’s no point listing all the possible techniques and leaving you to work out if they apply to you. The best thing a business owner can do here is to get an energy audit. This will reveal all the problem areas to you in no time!