July 16, 2020

Top 3 Ways to Streamline Your Manufacturing Process

Even for the most experienced team members in the manufacturing industry, there is always an opportunity to improve your daily routines. Whether that means taking advantage of newer technology or adjusting a process that has remained stagnant for years, you will find that making a few small tweaks can add up to significant changes for your manufacturing processes. Continue reading to learn about what some of these changes are and how you can implement them in your own business.

Quality Control

The best way to fix a mistake is to catch it before it ever happens. This means having a system in place that allows your team to make inspections along the way that will give them the information they need to determine if a product or process is ready for the next step. Developing the right system or changing to a new one may take a little trial and error, and it is important not to get hung up on making your quality control process identical to someone else’s in your industry.

Instead, try different methods or routines to see what fits your company. Ask for feedback from both team members and clients so you can understand how all involved parties are affected and if your process was successful.

The realities of life are that errors may still happen, even under the most watchful eye. While this is certainly an opportunity for you to make adjustments so this particular error is not a recurring issue, you also need to have a plan in place for reacting to a quality control issue. How does your team report an error? Who is in charge of taking the next steps – and what are the next steps?

Since you are diligent about checking the quality of your work as you go, you should be able to more easily identify which part of the process broke down, and how you can correct it for the future. It may be a simple matter of a team member misunderstanding their task, or you may find that this issue has a more mechanical component. No matter what, knowing the problem will allow you to solve it.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Does your process include Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs? If you want to achieve a goal, you have to have one – along with a way to measure your success. You need a plan that tells your team what you want to do, how you want to do it, what you require to finish it, and how much time it will take. These are known as Key Performance Indicators. Every company has its own set of KPIs that they use to measure their progress and growth, but there are some universal indicators that you will want to keep track of. 

For instance, do you measure how long it takes your team members to accomplish each part of the manufacturing process? If your team is partly made up of engineers who are in charge of blueprints, how long does it take them to create a blueprint for the next project? More importantly, are those engineers aware of your expectations when it comes to the goals? This is an excellent opportunity to work with all members of your team to find out what they think is a reasonable timeframe for their individual tasks. Once you have decided on the best goal, you need to make sure everyone is aware of it, and check in with them accordingly.

Of course, goals and KPIs are only useful if you take the time to review their efficacy. Using the timeframe example from above, how will you determine if that timeframe is useful? How will you measure it to make that determination? Record as much data as you can, or ask your team to record data, so you can view several days’, weeks’, months’, or even years’ worth of information to determine if your KPIs are being met, and in what capacity.

This is another chance to speak to your workers who are directly involved in your manufacturing process. If a goal is consistently unmet, find out why. Maybe the time required to do the job to the high standard of quality you have set does not line up with your KPI. Maybe there is a job performance issue and a team member who does not even realize they are making the error. You can use this information to assess how well your KPIs match up with the quality requirements, and make adjustments accordingly.

Communication

You can plan your KPIs for weeks, and make changes to your quality control measures, but none of it will have any effect if you do not communicate these changes and ideas to every single person on your team. Fortunately, we are living in a time where communication is possible in myriad forms – you just have to figure out what works best for your team.

This is yet another instance where you will want to talk to your team about how they prefer to communicate, what type of technology they have access to, and how often they are able to check for updates. If you have team leaders, you can ask them to help you accomplish this task, and report back with the information they collect. Be sure you tell your team leaders to mention the scope and reach of your communication – you will want to find out how best to reach people for company-wide e-mails as well as more focused groups, like all of the manual machinists on your operating line.

Once you have this information, start looking for solutions. Many people still don’t check email as often as they do text messages, so you might consider an option like GroupMe, which allows you to start a group text without everyone having to share their numbers with each other. Or you can look at an app like Slack, which allows you to create individual, virtual workspaces to reach specific team members with specific information. Take some time to research (or ask a team member to help), and be prepared to answer questions or point people to a tutorial in case they are unfamiliar with the solution you choose. Don’t forget that you do not have to be personally in charge of disseminating every single piece of information to your whole team – let your team leaders take point on sending information and fielding subsequent questions. That way, you can meet with your team leaders on a regular basis and give them the information you need them to share.

Having a written communication policy is also key to making this a success – everyone needs to know who to contact for different situations. For instance, in the case of inclement or dangerous weather that may delay your business from opening at its usual hour, how can your employees find out the necessary details? Do they call into a number, or will you send them all a text? Establish these protocols so your team will be ready long before the situation arises. And keep written copies of the protocols in public places, like your break room, the restrooms, and on your website.

You know how vital your business is, so take the time to refine and improve it as often as you can. Remember, especially in this digital age, you can always learn something new.

July 16, 2020 Laura Stewart