Operations & Maintenance

8 Ways to Improve Production Efficiency at Your Manufacturing Plant

Ryan Chan

No matter how large or small your manufacturing plant is, efficiency and productivity relative to your capital investment are the keys to maintaining your competitive edge. However, before adopting any method for boosting production efficiency, first it’s important to measure your plant’s current level of productivity. When this step is complete, you can take action to improve and measure their effects.

As for which actions you can take, below are eight proven methods that will help you:

  • improve operational and production efficiency with better processes
  • increase production in a factory environment with new technology and standards
  • improve manufacturing productivity from a personnel and equipment standpoint

Measuring your productivity

Before you start working to improve your plant’s productivity, it’s important to measure it. That’s often easier said than done, but the following tips can help you get measurements that are accurate enough to get the job done.

Take a multifaceted approach

Simply measuring one metric will not get you complete productivity data, and it can even be detrimental. For instance, when companies measure productivity only by how much output they get per labor hour, they often end up cutting labor hours only to increase costs elsewhere, such as in capital expenditures on automated equipment.

By measuring multiple factors, including labor, capital utilization, and materials, you’ll get a clearer picture of what productivity looks like in your plant.

Tip: Integrating your CMMS with other software can give you a more complete picture of your plant’s productivity.

Don’t go overboard

Good data is key, but be careful not to go overboard. Sometimes, “enough” data is better than “perfect” data in that a perfectly accurate and complete data set may cost more than it’s worth. Get enough information with enough precision to make good decisions, and don’t break your budget.

Look at commonly overlooked factors

Some factors that affect your production efficiency may not be readily obvious, or even easily measurable. For instance, sometimes the work of engineers in your facility can have a dramatic impact on your productivity, but it’s difficult to measure exactly how they accomplish that. Often, the measurements used are highly subjective, but they’re better than nothing in this case.

By working these overlooked factors into your productivity index, it will help you start taking them into account, even if the actual numbers aren’t incredibly precise.

8 Ways to Improve Your Production Efficiency

1. Examine your workflow

With your baseline numbers established, you can examine your workflow by altering specific parameters and measuring the effects. Develop a hypothesis before experimenting with changes, then compare the results to your assumptions and previous conditions. This will give you a clear perspective on what changes should be made.

2. Invest in employee training

Modern technology offers a plethora of ways to make ongoing employee training and education less painful for your workers and more productive at the same time. Information on new training methods can be accessed for free on the Internet, and the technology is readily available.

3. Modernize your business process

Distribute information on current work flow bottlenecks with members of your management team. Task them with developing ideas for improving the variables. This should result in a constant stream of ideas that can be useful as you work toward optimal solutions. CMMS software solutions provide an ongoing stream of communications by which key personnel can collaborate in an ongoing fashion.

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4. Invest in smart machining equipment

Your crew can only be as productive as the tools on hand allow. Introducing a few advanced machining tools in key production points can make an enormous difference. It’s a great way to improve production uptime and prevent unforeseen breakdowns. You’ll find that the revenue saved and generated will quickly fund the next piece of advanced equipment. You’ll find the cumulative effects can stack up very quickly.

5. Develop realistic expectations

With all of the new resources available to upper and middle management teams for improving production efficiency, it can be easy to overestimate what’s possible or practicable in the short term. Start with realistic goals that you can easily set into motion. Additionally, use the progress you make to show your staff and team what’s possible in the future. Developing a culture of optimism this way is far preferable to making radical changes that could fail dramatically.

6. Stay organized

Organization is a way of life more than it is a system or set of tools. Eliminating red tape while preserving the flow of information is a good place to start. Simultaneously, cutting down on things like production floor transit time—the time wasted when a worker has to walk across the manufacturing space for a certain tool—is key to making your production more competitive.

7. Create a culture of collaboration

Your manufacturing floor is at its most productive when everyone communicates openly and moves toward a single goal. Today, the old-fashioned suggestion box has been replaced by mobile technology. Leveraging these kinds of tools to get your team involved in a solutions-oriented conversation can be disruptive. But, when done right, it can drive worker satisfaction and productivity to new a whole new level.

8. Invest in preventative maintenance

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and the same goes for your production line. It may seem like a work-intensive process to run an ongoing PM schedule but having a mission-critical piece of equipment break down can result in revenue-killing downtime. There’s nothing worse than having employees sitting around on the clock while they wait for the equipment they need to work to get repaired.

Infographic about improving manufacturing efficiency

This article was updated with additional information in July, 2020

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