9 ways to optimise manufacturing

10 May 2017

Manufacturing efficiency and wastefulness minimisation may be improved in many ways and by various methods; however, not all of them guarantee that all the desired effects will be achieved. Based on a report published by Oxford Economics and Ernst&Young at the beginning of this year we present 9 ways which will aid the considerable improvement of the manufacturing activity results.

„The main problem of our domestic companies, especially the manufacturing ones, is resources wastefulness.  Yet another factor which affects companies negatively is low productivity.” – Polish industry needs optimisation instead of booming (Portal Spożywczy)

9 steps towards effective manufacturing


Measure and test

We cannot improve something we have no data on. When taking some actions, you will not have any information whether they resulted in any consequences and what consequences these were. With no reference point, you will not be able to evaluate the effects achieved. If you want to obtain genuine productivity improvement, you must have a possibility to measure it. For this purpose, you must create an information measurement system and standards for further use. You must develop the ways of collecting information and inform subordinates about this in order to involve them with this process. Adjust data collection with the capabilities of your manufacturing and employees. Electronic data collection directly from a machine seems to be the best.


Limit paper documentation and boost your information flow

Time saving on constant access to all the data concerning manufacturing, machine condition, personnel working time will be possible when instead of paper you will start collecting data in the IT System. You cannot think that when processing data on the sheets of paper you will obtain results best of all. Paper documentation also generates unwanted natural environment burden which nowadays may be eliminated easily. Information flow streamlining will also support you with periodical ISO audits because you will be able to prepare the required documents faster and easier. An optimal data flow level can be achieved only when you decide on the implementation of the IT system at your Company.


Control the condition of your machines

One of the main reasons for low efficiency are frequent machinery breakdowns. You must carry out the exhaustive examination of your machine park and you must decide which elements need repairing and which replacing. It would be the best if you could have information whether machines work or are at a standstill. Such a comfort is guaranteed by the system of lighting notification, ANDON, which informs operators through lighting signalisation on the machine operation state. However, it is a solution which may be applied on a manufacturing hall. It is even better when information on the operation of machines goes directly to the management staff desktops and it also displays the type of downtime. The other significant thing is also the analysis of the machine state based on historical data, the life span of spare parts or the operation time of each machine. When caring about the machine state, you must monitor those machines which are particularly exposed to a failure risk.


Computerise and automatize manufacturing

In order to rationalise manufacturing processes and enable collecting all the data directly from machines, a necessary element is the automation of manufacturing processes and appropriate machine programming. Today, there is no company which can do without control systems, automation or IT on the manufacturing hall. They guarantee not only the shortening of the time for performing various activities but also they may replace operators in such activities. Automated manufacturing also enables the direct and accurate data collection. A human error risk is thus eliminated, e.g. during entering a volume of the manufacturing performed in a given shift. Everything takes place automatically and without the participation of personnel. IT solutions provide constant control over the operations in the plant and in this way you know when and where your intervention is needed.


Counteract unplanned downtimes

A lot of breakdowns may be avoided through early prediction. Preventive operation maintenance is the best concept of manufacturing continuity management. It is four times cheaper than reactive UR philosophy (data: Baltic Berg Consulting, UR Training, 2012), consisting in taking actions only after a problem occurs. In order to implement preventive operation maintenance you have to control and analyse the state of your machines and the lifespan of spare parts. You must also keep the documentation of the state of each machine and its parts and based on historical data you can predict the probability of a breakdown and prevent future downtime. The CMMS system for operation maintenance is useful for keeping the register of machines and parts and also for planning maintenance works.


Improve product quality

Defective products reduce the OEE indicator considerably; they generate unnecessary costs and require extra time for completing an order. The lack of activities preventing such events is a sign of resources wastefulness which should be eliminated as soon as possible. For this purpose, you must diagnose and eliminate the causes of generating defective products. Perhaps, it will be necessary to replace some parts in machines or entire devices. You should analyse carefully the route of materials and semi-products until the final manufacturing stage. Try to search for places where products are damaged most frequently. Do not save on the quality of products because you can lose a lot.


Plan reasonably and flexibly

Right after the OEE indicator resultants, it is important to plan manufacturing optimally. Recognise your resources and capacity and then plan manufacturing so that you can change its schedule at any time without detriment to the most important orders. First of all, you should determine priorities, distribute tasks and monitor the availability of your machines. You must consider refitting time and distribute manufacturing orders so that you attain the highest flexibility, i.e. so that you can shift respective orders to other lines or machines depending on a situation. You must obtain information on availability and efficiency regularly (e.g. by using the MES system).


Do not employ extra personnel too hastily

In order to increase efficiency you should consider whether you definitely need extra personnel for manufacturing. The considerable majority of companies are able to rationalise effectiveness even by 30% by enhancing manufacturing processes, automating manufacturing and caring about the condition of a machine park. Firstly, focus on a potential which through the lack of optimisation and wastefulness remains unused. Then, streamline the work of your subordinates. Perhaps, in order to achieve better results, work will have to be reorganised or methods changed. Set new standards and try to motivate your employees to work more effectively. Monitor their work real time, measure their results and, first of all, do not restrain their creativity which often may provide ideas for new enhancements. Take care so that your employees feel appreciated and they will surely work better, be more loyal and more involved. Obviously, when after the upgrading introduced, you will still need more hands for work, do not hesitate with recruitment.


Invest into modern system solutions

If you care about the real and maximal improvement of your results, you should consider the possibility of investing into a professional system aiding productivity, such as MES or CMMS. You must know that maximal productivity cannot be obtained today with the use of a notebook or even more extended spread sheets. It is insufficient in relation to dynamical processes which take place in the entire manufacturing cycle and which should be monitored on a continuous basis. The condition of devices, quantity of orders, quantity of available machines, a manufacturing rate or other factors cannot be controlled and monitored by a man on a continuous basis. However, this is a condition for achieving the highest productivity without additional investments into a machine park or extra personnel. In the first place, it is necessary to optimise the resources and capacities we have in order to minimise wastefulness and then plan further company’s development when we are sure that what we have is exploited maximally. Remember also that the implementation of IT tools will allow you to avoid the most of previous steps with view of higher productivity because the systems accumulate such improvements on their own and there is no need for implementing them separately, what in turn can be seen in time and money saving.


As you can see, productivity may be upgraded in many ways by means of various tools. Starting from quite simple everyday activities, such as regular technical inspections of machines or the optimisation of employees work organisation to more advanced ones, brings in significant improvement, such as the system introduction to the MES manufacturing management or CMMS operation maintenance system.

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