Manufacturers of all shapes and sizes strive to be as efficient as possible. The more efficient they are, the easier it is for them to meet business goals and drive future growth. However, even with the best-laid plans, it isn't an easy feat to accomplish.
When it starts to become clear that deadlines won’t be met, there’s a temptation to just throw more resources at the problem. Whether this is done through production overtime or by delaying (again) planned maintenance, the outcome isn’t always successful.
Here are the production problems that are plaguing your plant and some tips to turn the tide.
The Problem With Productivity
By determining gaps in processes and the root causes of low productivity, you can make positive changes that have a real impact. Although your specific situation might differ from others, there are common causes that regularly come up.
These issues normally fall into one of three categories: quality, performance and availability.
Quality: Startup rejects lead to reduced yield while flaws in the existing process cause production discards.
Performance: Slow cycles and reduced speeds affect overall performance. Plus, the more small stops there are, the more production is hindered.
Availability: Equipment failure is a major cause of unplanned downtime. If systems aren’t accessible (either on purpose or because of fault), then efficiency suffers.
To tackle productivity problems, information such as production operations, quality, asset health and inventory status is essential. This data can then be used for monitoring, analysing and continuous improvements. A common KPI used for this is OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). OEE expresses as a percentage the contributions that quality, performance and availability have on the effectiveness of a production line or machine.
Fast and accurate data collection will improve business decisions and allow you to better utilise the resources at your disposal. Many manufacturers are still relying on outdated spreadsheets for data handling. This is incredibly inefficient and usually just leads to talented personnel unable to make improvements because they’re buried under ineffective paperwork.
Spreadsheets can slow an entire organisation down. From the operators who have to take twice as long to record production data to the engineers who must reach out to multiple sources to get the information they need. They’re slow, ineffective and the enemy of collaboration.
They require more manual work and data entry than digital alternatives. Excessive manual processes lead to low supervision with minimal feedback on what’s actually taking place on the production lines.
If your teams are currently spending too long finding information to make critical decisions, then it’s safe to assume productivity is low. Other common signs are spending time understanding the cause and impact of production losses so that action can eventually be taken or failing to respond effectively to unplanned events.
Low productivity impacted by these common issues leads to lower production capacity, missed production targets, issues with poor quality and increased waste.
Getting the Most From Production Hours
By looking to technological advancements, manufacturers can transform operational processes, optimise processes and ensure they have the capacity they need.
How Ready Is Your Business?
A good place to start is with a self-evaluation. What is your existing digital maturity? How much needs to change for you to take advantage of the latest tech? You’ll need to outline business objectives and the steps that need to be taken for you to achieve those goals.
There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all approach to this process, with every manufacturer sitting at slightly different levels of readiness. Once you have key objectives in place and you’re aware of current limitations, you can start to think about making other changes.
A Productive and Efficient Workforce
With the right support and resources, your staff can increase their workload without there being a negative impact on quality. Implementing state-of-the-art technology and vital management systems gives staff the tools they need to measure and monitor their work.
Delays and bottlenecks are eliminated which frees up staff to get more work accomplished. Imagine how much easier their lives would be if they had access to real-time information and easy-to-use dashboards that gave them a clear understanding of performance and issues.
Improving Equipment Utilisation
A predictive maintenance strategy would allow your plant to be far more productive thanks to a reduction in unplanned downtime. You could identify the equipment that requires repair before it can impact production schedules.
Deploy a continuous improvement program that uses loss data and identifies root causes. These problems can then be addressed through maintenance improvements, equipment replacements or wide-scale upgrades. Use OEE as an effective KPI to monitor and analyse your process’ productivity.
If you’re still relying on spreadsheets and other outdated processes, then it’s time to embrace digitisation. Only by streamlining processes and improving collaboration can you be productive, efficient, agile and ready to meet unpredictable market demand.
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