The first P in Manufacturing is Process. This “p” is likely the easiest to change, and may have benefits that far exceed the immediate benefits, such as increased sales.
What is Process?
Process controls a lot of the productivity that happens when making your product. In an earlier article we discussed some questions that you can ask to start improving your processes. Now, we’re going to dive deeper into process and uncover more areas to look at. Below are some key areas you can focus on to improve your process and get products out the door quicker.
Make the Process Easier
The first area of improvement is to make your process easier. By making a process or job easier for the operator it typically results in less time and therefore less cost for the company. To make things easier start from the beginning. Are you satisfied with how fast workers pick it up, or is it needlessly complicated? The next thing to look at are those complications. Are they in place for a reason? If they’re removed would that cause a safety issue? The next thing to look at is the individual steps. Could the steps be combined? The goal here is to make the process easier to understand, easier to learn, easier to adopt, and easier to implement.
Make the Process Faster
Once you’ve looked at making the steps and the overall process easier, you can now turn to making it faster. The first place to start looking are areas where there are slow-downs. Is the slow-down because the step in the process has to have human interaction? Is there a way you can automate the process in that area? Maybe the machine used in that step needs to be recalibrated. Perhaps another machine would be a better fit for the process. Don’t forget to keep safety in mind when you look at making the process faster. A slower, safe process is always better than a fast, unsafe one.
Make the Process Efficient
Improving efficiency can happen in many ways. Making the process faster may also improve its efficiency. Efficiency, however, isn’t just about speed. It’s also about building a process that is organized and coherent. To begin, take a look at the overall structure of the process. Is time wasted getting from one step of the process to another? Are the machines, people, and materials for the process arranged in the most efficient manner? Could you combine two processes into one? Could you combine two steps into one, or could you have one person work on two processes in an alternating fashion? Improving efficiency will save time, effort, and money.
Once you’ve identified the areas that need improvement, make sure that those changes make sense before you implement them. For instance, if you decide that you will have one person working on two alternating processes at once, it could lead to an eventual burn-out and overturn of that employee. Also, look at whether or not the changes to the process are aligned with your business goals. It’s great to improve processes by buying a new machine. However, if your business goal was to cut costs, then this improvement is strictly in conflict with that goal. Every improvement will have some consequence that also needs to be considered.