Increase Production Throughput: 9 Insights for Engineers
Need to increase your production throughput? Borrow a lesson from Henry Ford.
Henry Ford once hired an efficiency expert to examine the running of his company. The expert made a favorable report, but had reservations about one employee.
“It’s that man down the corridor,” he said. “Every time I go by his office, he’s just sitting there with his feet on his desk. He’s wasting your money.”
“That man,” replied Ford, “once had an idea that saved us millions of dollars. At the time, I believe his feet were planted right where they are now.”
We can’t promise that these 12 ideas will save you millions of dollars, but if you want to increase production throughput at your manufacturing facility, read on. The key to increasing your production throughput is found in your process, parts, prevention and people.
Increase Production Throughput with Process Improvements
- Know Your Numbers: Step one in improving your production throughput is mastering your metrics. Do this by quantifying everything that matters in your manufacturing process. Assign a value to material costs, man-hours, equipment uptime and every other vital area that helps you quantify your production.In quantifying your process, you can assign a dollar value, a time value or a simple point value. Then start monitoring your numbers. Once you know your numbers, you are in a better place to make informed decisions about what’s working, what’s not, and where you may need to focus your attention and resources.
- Automate: Even the most dedicated workers experience distractions, become tired and perform errors in processes, leading to reduced efficiency and increased risk of safety incidences. One solution is factory automation. Automating parts of your manufacturing process can dramatically increase production throughput while enhancing worker safety.Automation is perfect for performing repetitive and mundane processes and tasks with little or no human intervention. Factory automation includes automated cranes and transfer systems, robotics and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
- Go Lean with SPMTs: Principle three of the five principles of lean manufacturing is Creating Flow. A well-organized factory floor has an efficient product flow from production to shipping, one that maximizes efficiency and minimizes waste.To move products seamlessly through the production process, a growing number of manufacturers are replacing overhead cranes, conveyors, forklifts, rails and drag chains with Self-Propelled Modular Transporters (SPMTs)
Increase Production Throughput with Parts Improvements
- Minimize Your Rejection Rate: The goal of production isn’t to achieve a high level of throughput. It’s to achieve a high level of throughput with a rejection rate that’s as small as possible. After all, if you produce 1,000 products per hour but have a 10% rejection rate, you are wasting 100 products per hour and 1,000 per shift.Minimize your rejection rate by examining your production process for areas where parts get damaged, installed incorrectly, fail or in other ways fall outside of your production standards. Then take corrective action to remediate these problem areas. Your production throughput will immediately improve. And so will your level of customer satisfaction. You’ll also save money by spending less on remanufacturing or reprocessing parts.
- Eliminate Physical Prototyping: As you know, building a prototype of a part or product is time-consuming and resource intensive. Furthermore, if the prototype fails to meet your requirements or those of your customer, that time and money has most likely gone to waste.One way to increase production throughput is to use simulation software to run virtual tests on part and product designs whenever possible. Today’s sophisticated modelling systems ensure that your part or product meets your specifications and demands without tooling a physical prototype. Virtual prototyping helps you make necessary changes faster and more cost-effectively, and enables you to get to full production speed sooner.
Increase Production Throughput with Prevention
- Invest in Preventive Maintenance: Common sense tells us that replacing your engine oil is cheaper than replacing your engine, and yet plenty of manufacturers do not carry this wisdom over to their shop floor. They skip or delay long-term preventive maintenance to boost short-term production throughput.One way to increase production throughput is to practice maintenance based on the known schedule of wear for each tool on your floor. Discover the optimal schedule by talking with tool manufacturers and implementing appropriate asset management technology.
- Find a Home for Everything: One of the keys to increasing production throughout is increasing efficiency. And one of the keys to increasing efficiency is operating a well-organized factory floor – which means having a place for everything.Walk onto your factory floor and conduct an inventory of where your raw materials, parts, tools and work instructions are located. Then give yourself a grade for each area. Are tools easy to find? Are parts located close to where they are needed? Is waste piling up in the production area?
Increase Production Throughput with People
- Improve Employee Training: One of the leading causes of reduced production throughput is unsatisfactorily trained employees. Workers who lack adequate training typically create inefficiencies because they don’t fully realize how small things they do at their station make inefficient work for team members further down the line.Inadequate training also leads to inefficiencies because workers lack the skills and competence they need to make improvements at their workstations. Improving employee training boosts production throughput by giving workers the skills they need to make well-informed refinements to their part of the production process, enhnacements that can be documented and incorporated in standard operating procedures.
- Standardize Tasks: If your manufacturing process is typical, workers who carry out the same task likely do it in different ways. Sometimes this doesn’t affect efficiency. But other times it does. Even the simplest tasks can be standardized to improve efficiency.Start by documenting the many ways workers carry out the same task. Decide which method is the most efficient. Then create a checklist for each task, describing the steps to be taken to execute that task, and post these checklists in the appropriate workspaces.
As Henry Ford discovered, sometimes the greatest improvements to production throughput come from inside the plant, from your own employees. If your production is plagued by inefficiencies and downtime, look to your workers for answers.
Walk along your production line and talk with the people responsible for making your product. They likely have more than a few ideas for making the process less wasteful, more efficient or safer. Then create a feedback loop that helps workers pass suggestions up the communication chain to management.