How to Improve Production Efficiency in 5 Steps

August 13, 2021

MAINTENANCE

How to Improve Production Efficiency in 5 Steps

How to Improve Production Efficiency in 5 Steps

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) vary from company to company. However, what is standard across industries is one overarching goal: achieving strong production efficiency. SOPs support production efficiency because they yield strong supply chains, happy customers, and safe employees.

Exceptional managers consistently strive to achieve maximum output without sacrificing high-quality standards. Yet, as reported by Carpedia, most companies squander 50 percent of their labor and equipment resources. In addition, several factors can and do affect organizational production efficiency for both large enterprises and small businesses. 

How to Improve Production Efficiency 

production efficiency

Manufacturing efficiency is often measured in terms of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). OEE is a key performance indicator and “best practices” metric that identifies the percentage of planned production time that is genuinely productive. 

The metric becomes a benchmark when comparing a particular asset’s performance to industry standards, similar in-house assets, or its own output across different shift schedules. Alternatively, OEE becomes a baseline when tracking progress over time to eliminate production waste. World-class manufacturers achieve OEE scores of 85 percent or higher, while average manufacturers typically score around 60 percent. 

There is a lot of discussion across industries and platforms about what it means to increase production efficiency. Not surprisingly, the concrete steps you take will be unique to your organization’s challenges, resources, and production systems, but the advice is mostly the same:

1. Improve Business Processes and Workflows

2. Implement Maintenance Strategies  

3. Eliminate Wastefulness and Recycle

4. Get Organized with Connected Worker Platforms

5. Improve Employee Training Processes

It should come as no surprise that nowadays production efficiency involves the smart integration and automation of technologies. Team collaboration tools like Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) improve communication, streamline work order automation, and simplify asset management.

However, as with most technologies, much has changed in terms of CMMS functionality, versatility, and convenience over the past two decades. This push for greater manufacturing productivity translates to increasing uptime, decreasing downtime, and tightening maintenance operations.  

1. Improve Business Processes and Workflows

production efficiency

Much like individuals, manufacturing companies develop daily habits that are not always conducive to success. Perhaps a company system was once sufficient, but it is unlikely to remain effective over decades. Whether your organization is drafting its first set of work instructions or re-evaluating long-standing procedures, always view them as a work-in-progress. 

Companies that successfully measure, iterate, and improve these instructions as part of their internal culture tend to be the ones that last over time. 

Create, Integrate, and Automate Standard Operating Procedures

We recommend that organizations create standardized work Instructions to ensure that all processes are timely, consistent, and repeatable. In addition, evidence suggests organizations need to automate their processes to stay competitive.

According to McKinsey, the number of businesses seeking to automate their processes and increase productivity rose from 57 percent in 2018 to 66 percent in 2020. 

In fact, standard operating procedures (SOPs) make it easy for employees to reference work instructions, policies, and checklists. Additionally, digitization allows managers to track SOP implementation, quality assurance, and maintenance efforts.

1. Use CMMS for SOP Automation

Digital SOPs make life easier for organizations of all types and sizes. They streamline manufacturing processes, reduce operational and total costs, and provide real-time updates on task completion. Using manufacturing Standard Operating Procedures, managers can standardize preventive maintenance processes and quality assurance plans across teams, functions, and manufacturing facility.

From the way new equipment runs to how a manager audits performance, repeatable processes can always be made more efficient with an SOP.

With digital SOP, management can quantify and organize every production process that workers use. It’s not only about the shop floor. Automate the SOP for how the front office receives production updates from the factory floor. Digitize the SOP to alert the warehouse maintenance team that raw materials have arrived and that products are ready to ship. 

An SOP can even standardize how a team communicates. Streamlining internal communications creates production efficiencies across the company. 

2. Automate Repetitive Tasks First

Not sure where to begin? Start by documenting your organization’s most repetitive tasks. Routine, manual tasks provide an easy opportunity for automation to free up time and resources.

These tasks may include daily cleaning procedures, routine maintenance tasks, and worker opening/closing processes.

In the manufacturing world, the term downtime refers to the amount of time production stalls because of non-functioning equipment. However, downtime and bottlenecks can also represent any time wasted in an organization’s production cycle.

Use this methodology to identify opportunities to eliminate these eight types of waste with new production processes: 

DOWNTIME 

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Not utilizing talent
  • Transportation
  • Inventory excess
  • Motion waste
  • Excess processing

Common examples of operational and maintenance (O&M) waste include extra-processing, inventory mismanagement, transportation mismanagement, non-utilized talent, overproduction, and equipment downtime. Lean Six Sigma is a team-oriented approach that maximizes process efficiency and improves business profitability. It’s based on the tools and methods of Sigma Six and the philosophy of Lean Manufacturing.

3. Outline Processes with Employee Input

Upon closer look, you may notice that most broad employee assignments contain small steps within them. For this reason, the employees who regularly perform specific procedures should plan, develop, and write the first draft of the SOP. After all, they are the “subject-matter experts” (SMEs), most familiar with the procedures.

The same employee who writes the SOP should then work through the written procedure to make any necessary changes. The writer may need to clarify the text and add graphics to increase clarity and ensure compliance. 

Once the initial draft is complete, assign secondary employees and managers to review the SOP. Those familiar with the procedure may notice a missing or complicated step that can be broken into smaller ones.

Once in final draft form, organizational leaders can review for quality assurance and make final changes. An SOP should not be complicated.

The simpler it is, the more effective it will be. Write digital SOPs in simple, straightforward, and actionable language that everyone can understand.

When work instructions contain the optimal steps needed to perform a process, improvements are recognized in a variety of areas, including:

  • Consistency of your product
  • Quality of your product
  • Safety of your operators
  • Throughput of your process

2. Implement Maintenance Strategies

production efficiency

Moving your company’s processes and Standardized Work Instructions to one digital platform can lead to various benefits: centralization, process control, and structured and linked workflows.

Centralization

For a company to be competitive these days, work instructions need to be created and maintained with Workflow Management software. By doing so, all instructions can be centralized in one place, in one app, available virtually anywhere you bring your phone.

Additionally, these can be iterated, improved, and put into action across your organization instantly—an undertaking that would have previously required months to prepare.

Workflow Management Software can and will save you and your workers time digging through hard drives, old files, and filing bins, which ultimately saves you money. Centralizing Standardized Work Instructions and procedures also ensures that your workers receive instructions.

Integrating CMMS with an existing ERP software is another way to keep all processes and procedures centralized.

And another benefit? It makes collaboration much more straightforward.

Process Control

How does your company ensure compliance with workflows and instructions? Without a standardized approach and constant supervision guaranteeing that every step of a process is correctly followed, this is challenging—if not impossible. 

Welcome to Industry 4.0. In this wave of new technology, you can upload Standardized Work Instructions and make them available on a digital platform to all of your employees. You also can create a series of checklists for procedures to enforce compliance by all your workers, leaving behind an audit trail of those employees who do not complete all the required tasks. 

Structured and Linked Workflows

Chances are your work instructions do not exist in a vacuum but are part of more extensive or connected procedures and workflows

Having your work instructions in an environment where they are linked means your workers can launch other necessary workflows should the need arise.

3. Eliminate Wastefulness and Recycle

Waste occurs in many forms, some of which are not always obvious. For example, poor ventilation and ineffective heating and cooling are not usually visible to the naked eye. 

Additionally, waste occurs in unnecessary labor costs and worker mismanagement, which can significantly impact production efficiency. Do not neglect the cost of wasted human physical energy. Does your team follow SOPs that can be measured and improved?

Track your production team’s key performance indicators to reduce wasted effort and improve production efficiency across teams, facilities, and equipment.

Nearly all industries face growing pressure to do more with less. As a result, budgets are often tight, while the amount of work is increasing. As a result, consider the usefulness and availability of maintenance resources. Most companies allocate somewhat limited resources for maintenance.

Managers may need to rally for the following additional resources to successfully implement new maintenance strategies:

  • Budget
  • Manpower
  • Tools
  • Inventory
  • Software 

If you rely primarily on reactive maintenance, you may be unknowingly wasting efforts and resources. If so, shifting from reactive to proactive maintenance can help you save money and time and improve efficiency. If most of your maintenance is proactive, you can still fine-tune it to achieve a better return on investment (ROI). 

We recommend that you run a planned maintenance optimization and a return on investment (ROI) analysis of your assets’ maintenance to see which equipment is the most critical and which would incur the highest breakdown and maintenance costs if not serviced correctly. 

A planned maintenance optimization (PMO) refers to a set of organizational methods used to improve existing maintenance strategies. PMO analyzes asset failure history and ongoing preventive maintenance (PM) routines to improve outcomes.

The analysis involves reviewing existing maintenance tasks, eliminating unnecessary work processes, and adding missing assignments to maintenance schedules.

Prioritize high-risk and high-value assets first, and add equipment to your new maintenance strategy progressively. 

4. Get Organized with Connected Worker Platforms

manufacturing production efficiency

To be fully in the loop, do your team members need to check their email inboxes, text messages, phone calls, walkie-talkies, and office paper inboxes? Streamlining and organizing your internal communications have compounding benefits that begin immediately.

The world around us has been transformed by technology more so in the past 50 years than in the past 500. For companies to stay relevant, they must develop or implement solutions to optimize production and efficiency and reduce human error. 

Digitizing processes for an organization allows for a central repository of information, such as Standardized Work Instructions, as well as connecting workers who are out on the manufacturing floor, those who generally do not have a workspace with a dedicated desktop computer. 

However, despite access to these tools, many organizations are left feeling more disconnected from their front-line teams than before. 

Messaging within your company’s digital platform is extremely important. Instead of requiring your employees to manually input all of their coworkers’ phone numbers, having a messaging system built-in to their Connected Worker Platform keeps the conversation in one place and allows for an audit trail.

Connected Worker Platforms

Connected Worker Platforms have key efficiency features, such as the ability to: 

  • Collect and analyze data
  • Measure output across locations & teams
  • Trigger and time stamp work
  • Test and iterate procedures across your organization
  • Communicate and collaborate in real-time
  • Validate jobs and headcount

While it might not seem like a significant difference, a mobile-first platform brings tremendous advantages to companies of all sizes. Your team can become more nimble, productive, and efficient.

Employees will no longer need to seek out a desktop computer to punch in numbers from their checklists and forms or to find their next work order or assignment. 

5. Improve Employee Training Processes

If you find your employees are inefficient, it is probably not their fault. New employees need to receive training, both directly and indirectly, to adhere to company standards and to reduce inefficiencies before they become ingrained. 

Ensure you have standardized operating procedures (SOPs) in place—after you’ve identified gaps in employee knowledge, skills, and processes—before creating necessary training programs. 

One of the reasons technical SOPs sometimes fail is that management has not created a process for them to succeed. Whenever procedures, employees, assets, and/or functions change, management needs to update and reapprove SOPs.

Quality SOP reviews ensure that policies and procedures are current and cost-effective and follow new or changing regulations, standards, and quality assurance plans. 

Also, when employees change jobs, management must ensure new employees are trained according to product quality and safety standards. The best SOPs are clear, concise, and easy to follow.

In fact, failure to follow a company’s standard operating procedures is a common observation during inspections.

The FDA notes that poor content, lack of clarity, and no training are the reasons most cited by employees for not following an SOP.

One of the best ways to ensure SOPs are followed is to explain to employees why they are essential. After employees know WHY an SOP is in place, success comes down to developing accessible, clear, and user-friendly documents.

Ideally, you can eliminate most onboarding training hurdles using modern software to reinforce and apply SOPs to every task. The benefits of incorporating these processes into a software solution are that any relevant process improvements can be at your team’s fingertips wherever they are.

Modern CMMS provides extensive learning resources to get employees up to speed and improves employee retention. MaintainX, for example, hosts a learning center, blog posts, and certification courses on using the software effectively and efficiently.  

How to Improve Production Efficiency with CMMS

Most CMMS systems improve production efficiency and business processes by streamlining asset information on production lines, preserving maintenance histories, automating maintenance schedules, and reducing downtime.

Choose CMMS features that:

  • Tracks resource, budget, and labor costs for every component
  • Creates real-time reports of ongoing reactive and preventative maintenance tasks
  • Generates regulatory compliance checklists 
  • Supports inventory management 
  • Tracks and filters historical records of completed work orders 
  • Stores information from technical procedures and documentation of assets 
  • Offers time and cost-tracking functionality by work order
  • Supports iOS and Android mobile apps

Modern CMMS solutions, like MaintainX, help manufacturing businesses reduce costs and increase the bottom line associated with work order management by organizing workflows and providing insights into resource allocation. 

Obviously, we think MaintainX is the best CMMS on the market to improve production efficiency. 

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