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You know your shop needs to run at full capacity to remain profitable and competitive. But do you know if it actually does? Tracking throughput is one of the most important metrics for a manufacturer, as it is directly related to your ability to manage efficiency, meet customer demand and generate revenue. Your throughput can mean the difference between meeting quotas or losing customers to your competition due to slow or delayed orders.
Throughput is a measure of the amount of product that passes through a production process over a given period of time. It takes into account the entire production process, including various stages such as assembling, testing, packaging and more.
Throughput represents the actual production output achieved by a manufacturing system, taking into consideration factors such as production efficiency, downtime and any constraints or bottlenecks that might affect the process.
Strategies for Maximizing Throughput
Read on to discover six foolproof ways to increase your manufacturing throughput and make your shop more efficient.
1. Review Your Existing Workflow
The first place to start when trying to increase your throughput is to review your existing workflow. You can’t make any improvements until you actually know how your shop floor functions. There are three main areas that you need to evaluate:
- Labor – Do you have enough skilled labor in the right positions? Does your staff clearly know their objectives and work plans? Do you have an effective project manager in place who can stay on top of things?
- Equipment – Is all your equipment in good repair? Is the technology that you rely on suited to your current needs?
- Processes – Do you have clearly mapped processes? Where are your pain points and bottlenecks?
Having a clear understanding of where you are and where your issues lie will help you make improvements. You don’t want to make changes just for the sake of change: You want to make changes that will be impactful and help you to improve your business — so knowing where you currently stand is key.
Use an ERP, or other software system, to monitor your shop floor, assess how your shop is functioning and identify possible problem areas and bottlenecks.
2. Eliminate Bottlenecks
Now that you have reviewed your existing workflows and identified where your problems are, you can work on eliminating bottlenecks. Maybe you have some processes that have been in place for such a long time that they are now riddled with workarounds as new equipment has been added or production methods have changed. Or maybe you need to add extra stations to a long process to boost production speed. You may need to find ways to make a process more efficient or possibly even eliminate a process entirely and replace it with a different one.
Work on creating new streamlined processes that work with your current setup and flow. The right solution will depend on factors such as spare floor space, the expense of equipment involved, and the nature/necessity of the process. Use the intel you discovered in step one to make informed decisions about how to improve your workflows.
3. Reduce Equipment Downtime
One of the fastest ways to slow things down is by ignoring regular maintenance. Scheduled downtime for maintenance costs much less — in terms of both time and money — than downtime due to broken or worn-out equipment. And Murphy’s Law tells us that equipment breakages always come at the worst possible time.
Don’t delay maintenance thinking you are actually speeding up your shop floor; instead, schedule it regularly to ensure your machinery is always in optimum shape. Use the information you gathered about your shop floor and workflow processes to identify the best time to schedule routine maintenance to have the least impact on your business.
Train equipment operators in regular maintenance and troubleshooting procedures to ensure your equipment is always running smoothly, and unexpected equipment downtime is rare.
4. Reduce Parts Rejection Rate
You may have high output but still fail to meet throughput goals because too many parts are being rejected. If you can produce 500 parts per hour but have a 10% part rejection rate, you’ll waste 50 parts every hour — or 400 parts a shift. If you cut your rejection rate in half, your throughput will increase by 200 parts per shift.
Look for elements in your production process that can damage your parts or cause them to fail to meet production standards. Identifying and correcting these issues can improve production throughput and increase customer satisfaction with your products. You’ll also reduce money wasted on remanufacturing or reprocessing parts.
5. Improve Employee Training
When employees lack proper training, they may not have the skills and competence to find improvements that they can make at their workstations. Worse yet, poorly trained employees may accidentally create delays because they don’t understand the production process and how a tweak that saves them a minute creates 5 minutes of extra work for someone else down the line. Focusing on employee training so they have the skills to make positive, well-informed changes to the production process is critical to maximizing throughput.
And don’t limit training and education to equipment. Your shop floor will run more smoothly if everyone understands your policies on workplace harassment and proper communication, ensuring you have a more amicable and functional workplace.
6. Use Factory Automation
To boost your throughput even more, consider automating some of your manufacturing processes. Even your most dedicated and skilled employees can get exhausted after a few hours of heavy labor, leading to reduced work consistency and increased risk of injury. The appropriate use of factory automation can dramatically increase manufacturing throughput.
Automated production systems can outperform humans in terms of precision and the ability to perform repetitive tasks at a great speed. In the presence of smart machines, your staff can focus on planning, programming, and other important tasks and leave the heavy lifting, so to speak, up to the machines.
Modern industrial technology makes it possible for you to produce many products while meeting stringent quality control requirements and improving your workers’ quality of life by preventing them from having to do difficult and repetitive heavy labor. Strategic use of the right automated machines on your shop floor can have a great impact on your overall productivity and throughput.
Learning how to maximize and improve your throughput will have a significant impact on your business, making you more productive, efficient and profitable. If you are looking for other ways to improve your business, download our guide to becoming a manufacturing superhero, in which we share insider tips that we have learned from decades of working with some of the best manufacturers across North America.
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