Want to build smarter products, realize cost savings, or remove complexities? In this article, we share some of the practices you could use to optimize your production lines.
Why should I optimize my production line?
Most do it to help their teams achieve some key benefits. Here are a few:
- Shorten the cycle from product conception to mass production
- Find cost savings
- Spot new revenue opportunities
- Reduce the waste created through the process
- Improve machine uptime
- Speed up the response time on new issues
- Improve machine care and maintenance
- Find better ways to integrate data from across the business
Each of these goals will require data, both from your business and experts in your industry, and a willingness to implement best practices.
How do I optimize my production line?
Optimization isn't a one-and-done task. It's a process you'll invest time and resources into over and over again to create better products, processes, and supply chains.
Here are some ideas for getting started in these three areas:
Look for ways to improve how your products look, work, are built, and are used. Here, you might study how you can simplify your design to reduce costs or waste. You might also think about how to make the product easier to use. Or, instead, you might look for ways to add features your customers will value. This might include folding in smart technologies or features your customers usually access through multiple products.
When you spot ideas for design improvement, work with your design team or an outsourced design engineer to prototype it. This step can help you create a new design that might be more functional or durable and minimize waste, time to produce, and costs.
Keep in mind that designers can also help you study the issues you're facing. They can use best practices to recommend improvements you may not see yourself.
Map your process from start to finish to document who and what is involved at every stage. When you take on this task, you’ll be able to see how inputs flow, employees get involved, and products move. Then, you might find defects in your process, ideas for improvement, or opportunities to bring in automation.
Keep these practices in mind as you take on this task (and the fixes that come from it):
- Pay close attention to the quality of your inputs. This will help you spot variances, especially those that occur across suppliers.
- Study how different equipment operators perform throughout their shifts to look for drops in quality.
- Pay attention to who might need more training or an alternate work assignment.
- Keep logs of changes in the assembly line environment to study how differences in lighting, temperature, or tool selection can impact quality.
- Invest in testing so you can spot and resolve issues quickly.
Supply chain design
Look to your supply chain to study how the inputs you use impact the cost, quality, durability, or other factors for your design or the efficiency of your process.
You'll need to keep diligent records to take on this task. Keep notes of what you order from each supplier. Then, compile a record of the quality the inputs you receive and the direct and indirect costs that are associated with them.
Next, focus on how movement occurs through your supply chain. Map out how you or others produce, deliver, transform, and distribute each piece. Then, try finding ways to simplify and shorten the distance each must travel to reduce costs and the risks of mishandling.
Monitor these three areas closely for issues that could impact your costs, quality, or efficiency. As issues arise, be sure to document them. Then, decide which must be resolved today, which can be put off until an ideal solution is found, and which are mere annoyances you can take on in the future.
Are there specific metrics to track?
Experts say there are five key metrics most should track to optimize their manufacturing performance:
- Total cost of production per time period, which should exclude major capital spends
- Total cycle time of the units you buy to study how long you have them on hand
- Delivery performance that measures your on-time success rate
- The quality of outputs over a given time period, measured by customer input
- Safety of your team, measured by the frequency and severity of accidents and injuries
When you keep records of these metrics, you can see where your business stands today and how it improves over time, with or without new design improvements. These metrics can also help you benchmark your manufacturing process against others in your industry and study whether your business should continue to produce in-house or outsource to a contract manufacturer.
Want to learn more about outsourcing your production? Check out this article:
What can help me optimize production?
Follow these steps to study your processes and find ways to improve:
- Collect machine and process data with systems that create real-time dashboards.
- Use data and analytics tools to spot bottlenecks or constraints.
- Capture downtime data to find trends and sources of problems.
- Employ analytics that can help you predict failures before they occur.
You might need a new set of tools to take on these tasks. Look into these programs as you optimize your production:
Log into your owner’s portal for a free step-by-step guide to optimize your business.