When it comes to lean manufacturing, one of the areas original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) should not overlook is productivity. Even if they implement effective strategies, improve supply chain management and continuously monitor and improve operations, the positive results will only go so far if productivity is not addressed. This responsibility falls almost entirely on the human element, though equipment and automation should be considered as well.
Here are four ideas you could put to use to bolster productivity in your factory:
The 5S lean manufacturing tool will benefit your operations in numerous ways. This methodology revolves around five tasks: sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. CIO pointed out that putting this into practice company-wide will create a more productive workspace, as the idea behind it is to clear out all the unnecessary items, tasks and steps that are in the way of those that add value and promote productivity. Whether you eliminate unneeded steps from a process or you literally clean up the factory floor, your workers will have a clear space in which to work. Just as removing non-essential processes from operations improves efficiency during a build, getting rid of waste in the work area allows workers to accomplish more in the same amount of time. This will also help your employees stay more organized and focused, which reduces the risk of human error that can potentially trickle down into the rest of the production process.
Update your department
In some cases, your employees may be working at sub-optimal levels not because they are lazy or inefficient workers, but because the tools they have are holding them back. Anything from slow-running computers to outdated manufacturing equipment can prevent your factory's productivity from flourishing. Replacing every piece of equipment that isn't state of the art will be expensive, and may not even be entirely necessary. You'll first need to assess what equipment could stand to be improved upon. Then you have to decide whether it would be better to replace or upgrade existing technology. Reliable Plant suggested focusing on diagnostic and control technology, as you may be able to retrofit new parts onto machines you already have. The advantage, according to the source, is that you will then be able to monitor the productivity of the equipment and glean more information in greater detail. In turn, this will help you make more informed decisions in the future.
Look into advanced manufacturing solutions
Just as updating your software and equipment can foster better productivity levels, introducing new ideas and technology can have a similar positive effect. Advanced manufacturing tools, such as 3-D printing, automation and supply chain management software, may be key to unlocking your factory's true potential. BCG Perspectives pointed out that this is an effective route to take to gain an edge over the competition, as most companies are currently focusing on reducing costs and other aspects of lean manufacturing rather than investing in new tech. However, this is quickly becoming a popular way to aid in productivity, so you will need to act sooner than later to reap as many benefits as possible.
Don't forget the small stuff
Solutions to improve operations are not always about the big picture, and making small changes can have big results. One of the key lean strategies, gemba, encourages managers to spend time among their employees, getting a firsthand look at the working conditions and processes so they can see what issues are present and what systems are working. This principle can be applied to productivity, as you may be able to spot things like workers using their phones on the job or inefficient floor layouts that can waste minutes or more of your employees' time. The solutions to these problems are relatively simple, and can result in a productivity boost that would otherwise have been missed.