Efficiency is an ongoing goal for every organization, and manufacturing is no exception. From lean manufacturing processes to work area optimization, there’s a lot of advice out there on how to address common pain points.
When considering how to improve productivity in manufacturing, it is important to take into account one of the most important tools we have for boosting efficiency: enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.
How to Improve Productivity & Efficiency in Manufacturing
It’s hard to overstate how helpful an ERP can be to streamline manufacturing processes. And while you might prefer to stick with your current platform, you should be aware of how the right ERP and organizational flow can significantly boost productivity.
But first, it is important to know how to improve the manufacturing process. Here are eight steps that you can take to increase efficiency on your manufacturing floor:
1. Examine Problems as a Team
Project managers should begin by assessing the workflow to identify the problem. To improve your process, here are some questions you should ask:
- Do you have the right people working on the team and are they properly utilized?
- Are your processes working?
- What are roadblocks in your processes and what can be improved? Do you have a plan in place?
- Do you have the right technology and equipment in place? Does it meet your needs or do you need to make adjustments?
- How will these changes affect the business?
It is also a good idea to chat with your employees to get their perspectives and to see if it is necessary to make adjustments or not.
This can provide insights into an issue that higher-level management may not know about, and just as importantly, it keeps the entire team involved in the problem-solving process. As we’ll review, this type of engagement is critical to increase productivity in the long-term.
2. Prioritize Employee Training
If you want to learn how to improve manufacturing efficiency, your team is a good place to start. Efficiency is driven by the proper coordination of people and processes.
As such, employee training should be a cornerstone of your productivity strategy. Regular safety training should be a priority, but keep more detailed training logs as well.
Other ways to increase employee efficiency include:
- Setting up personalized schedules for all employees to track their progress over time
- Make sure employees get dedicated training on new equipment
- Offer employees additional industry resources or online tools that let them learn on their own – this is a sure way to set up a team that’s educated, efficient, and capable of problem-solving.
Employee training and education pays off. In one survey of 3,100 U.S. workplaces, it was found that a 10% increase in workforce education led to an average productivity boost of 8.6%.
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3. Invest in Better Tools
When we say better tools, we aren’t referring to bigger and more expensive machinery. Fancier equipment can do only so much to maximize efficiency.
Instead, managers should focus on specific tools that they currently lack and how those tools can fill knowledge gaps on how to improve a manufacturing process throughout the organization. ERP systems offer a multitude of management tools to boost productivity, including:
- Resource management tools that eliminate the need to manually collect and organize company data
- Real-time analytics on production efficiency and performance
- Accounting integrations that automate burdensome administrative processes like invoicing or reporting
- Help desk support to address technical issues faster
4. Ongoing Machine Maintenance
You’d be surprised at how many companies neglect basic maintenance of their machines. This is a cardinal sin of manufacturing productivity. Even though maintenance schedules can be inconvenient, they’re an essential part of keeping the operation active and the equipment running well.
This type of upkeep is essential to reduce downtime, particularly for factories with thin profit margins. Regular maintenance helps you stay ahead of issues before they escalate into catastrophes.
Pay attention to what’s happening with each machine and train your staff to keep an eye out, too. It helps to commit to ironclad maintenance schedules as well as keep spare parts, cables, or other components on hand in case something breaks down.
5. Optimize Your Inventory
Both in your raw materials and finished products, your inventory is ripe for optimization. Work within your ERP to create synchronicity between these two areas. The right ERP solution will allow you to set up automated triggers for materials billing, invoicing, and inventory tracking.
This helps streamline inventory processes by removing the human element. All those hours spent on spreadsheets and reports can be avoided with a smarter system of management that provides complete visibility into product inventory and helps you better accommodate shifts in demand.
Through this type of system, you can avoid product shortages and stay on top of inventory counts to ensure that your stock is always at optimal levels.
6. Data Tracking
Most manufacturing companies have all the data they need to create efficient, productive workflows. The problem is they don’t have a way to coordinate this data.
This is another area where a robust ERP can help. As a business intelligence tool, ERPs are designed to provide a single, centralized platform for all company data.
Naturally, this makes the data easier to work with across any type of manufacturing process, whether it’s internal team management, inventory optimization, quality control, report generation, and more. As a rule, make sure your ERP offers the means to access and deploy this data.
7. Streamline Supplier Communication
If you’re curious about how to improve productivity in manufacturing, it can pay dividends to improve communication with your key suppliers, vendors, and partners in your supply chain.
Use your ERP to collaborate with suppliers and improve response times to problems.
Your ERP will provide a constant flow of real-time supply chain data to you, which provides better insight into supply chain operations.
You can track and monitor each process in the supply chain, from procurement to production to distribution, and get a complete view of supply chain operations from end to end.
This data will be important to have on hand when you discuss shortages or performance issues with suppliers. It will also come in handy when it’s time to explore different vendor solutions.
8. Automate Processes
You may notice a recurrent theme throughout these tips: Automation is your friend when you want to improve a process, as it allows you to reduce time spent managing processes by hand and focus more on complex tasks that add value to your enterprise.
Look for opportunities (both within your ERP and without) to automate workflows. Any process that can be defined and repeated may be ripe for automation, including inventory management, report generation, vendor communication, and personnel coordination.
Pay attention to what your ERP currently offers in this arena and be aware that more comprehensive solutions are available and designed specifically for the manufacturing industry.
If your current ERP can’t centralize your supply chain data, provide end-to-end visibility, or offer real-time insights into performance, you may be better off with a new solution.
A System to Improve Manufacturing Processes
The above guidelines should cover many of the usual suspects that tend to detract from manufacturing productivity, but remember, people and processes need to run in harmony.
This is why tools like ERPs are so useful for bridging the gaps – and why they’re so valuable for long-term success. In one study, 53% of CIOs who used ERPs looked forward to extending their ERP capabilities even further with intelligent technologies like machine learning.
With Corning Data you can solve any of your business needs with JD Edwards solutions for Manufacturing that cover consulting, upgrades, security, implementation, migration, integrations, and more.
Of course, before you can run, you have to walk, and the first step is to explore the different types of ERP options for your company. To get a leg up, give Corning Data a call. We have years of experience in ERP software consulting and implementation – and can help you find the best type of ERP for your business. If you need support, we’d be happy to guide you through the details.