Innovating and improving in the manufacturing sector is important. It’s what’s keeping companies alive and kicking in 2015, instead of being forced to close their doors. Innovation, however is not the only way to ensure that your company is running in a smooth manner. Before you consider any innovations, you should make sure you have your most important elements in place. These elements are the famous “3 p’s of manufacturing”: people, processes, and products. Get these three pieces of the puzzle in the right place and your innovations and future manufacturing methods will net you much better results.

People, the first “p” in the 3 p’s of manufacturing, are the backbone of any major manufacturing company. Even companies that create most of their products with machines or those that use other automated systems need people. The difference is the role that person fills in the company. In a company which uses people to do most of the work, they are responsible for fulfilling processes and getting the product out the door. In a company which relies on machines or other automated processes, people tend to fall into more support and managerial roles. This doesn’t mean that they’re not just as important, though. The thinkers and the supervisors of one company are just as important as the workers of another.

Once we accept that people must be a part of the equation to make a successful manufacturing company, the next question is how many? What’s enough? Too many or too few can cripple a company. This has been proven time and time again when a company lays off workers, and, later, is forced to close their doors. There is no easy answer, though. You can lay-off a hundred people today and find out you need to hire fifty more tomorrow to keep up with your production schedule. The real question that will provide a better answer is: are my people in the right place? Answer this question first, and you’ll see a more efficient and happier workforce.

Generally when innovations are discussed, the discussion is directed at the process part of the 3 p’s. That’s because processes usually take less time to innovate than people or products. Processes are what keep specific tasks going, by providing a framework so that anyone (provided they have the right skill-set) can come in and take over a job. In other words, it prevents a lot of down-time by ensuring that someone doesn’t have to “think” about how to do their job. They simply follow the steps and get it done. This doesn’t mean that the majority of the work-force isn’t “thinking” while they do their job. They still have to have knowledge of what they’re doing, how to work the equipment, and what to do if something goes wrong. Processes simply make a job more efficient by laying out the steps ahead of time. The first step to making sure that this piece of the puzzle is in place and working correctly, is to make sure that you’ve documented those processes. A company without processes or without processes for their redundant task (at the very least) is missing out on a lot of easy efficiency improvements. Once your processes are in place, then you can look at tweaking and improving them to make them better, faster, and able to hold up in changing situations.

The final “p” is products. The products a company manufactures has a direct impact on sales. Some might argue that this makes products the most important “p” in the 3 p’s of manufacturing. In reality it is just one piece of the puzzle. Without a person to dream up the product, without a process to create that product, it would never see the light of day. Still products are important. So important that updating a product for modern consumers can have a huge impact on the sales of that product.

Obviously the most important aspect of this “p” is to actually have products. More products, however, do not equal more sales. If the products are not making sales, you have to ask why. Are there too many to choose from or not enough? Are they user-friendly? Is it hard to use them or understand how to use them? Are they broken or deficient in some way? Is a competitor’s product more useful or appealing? These questions should be answered before any innovation steps are considered.

Each “p” in the 3 p’s of manufacturing would not work well without the other to support it. Getting all of your “p’s in a row” will help your company be more prepared to innovate and look at future manufacturing methods.