In today’s tight economy, manufacturers face more pressure than ever to maximize their manufacturing throughput even as they reduce costs and improve product quality. By automating key manufacturing processes, companies are gaining greater visibility over their operations and control over their costs company-wide. The resulting insights in turn, are empowering businesses to implement strategies for improving shop floor productivity that not only increases manufacturing throughput but also helps to control costs and achieve goals for product quality.
Defining Manufacturing Throughput
Manufacturing throughput refers to the rate at which a company produces or processes its products or services. It measures the flow rate of a business process, which calculates the movement of inputs and outputs within the production process. The goal of measuring throughput is to identify and eliminate any bottlenecks impacting a company’s bottom line.
Calculating the throughput rate usually involves measuring inventory and tracking the time it takes for a product to pass through different manufacturing processes on a machine-by-machine basis. Unlike output, throughput only counts the parts that are successfully delivered and accepted by the customer. It does not include scrap, rejections, and stockpiled products.
Strategies for Increasing Manufacturing Throughput
Improving production process efficiency is critical to increasing manufacturing throughput. This can be achieved by reducing downtime, streamlining processes, strengthening inventory management, and improving shop floor visibility and control with automation. By relying on the strategies that follow, companies can enhance their production process’s efficiency and increase their market competitiveness.
- Leverage real-time data to improve preventative maintenance and reduce downtime. Real-time production monitoring is critical in reducing downtime because it provides actionable insights. It captures data on the reasons for bottlenecks, as well as into when and where downtime is occurring or is most likely to occur. This information can be used to improve preventative maintenance strategies and eliminate equipment failures, which can reduce unexpected downtime by up to 90%, according to the most recent SME manufacturing industry study.
- Use Six Sigma to optimize the entire production process. Six Sigma is one of the best-known approaches for improving shop floor productivity. It is a data-driven methodology that aims to identify and eliminate inefficiencies in the production process that could result in product defects. Using Six Sigma techniques, manufacturers can locate areas in a manufacturing production line that need improvement and reduce manufacturing lead time and overhead costs.
- Standardize production processes plant-wide. Standardizing production processes plant-wide is a proven method for improving efficiency and product quality. The greater the level of standardization, the greater the cost and time efficiencies achieved. Standardization eliminates ambiguity and guesswork, which in turn guarantees quality and is proven to improve employee morale. This leads to a boost in productivity and a positive work environment, which often translates into increased profitability.
- Automate inventory management. Inventory is a vital component of overall costs, and inventory management must be running smoothly to ensure items are in stock and delivered on time and in full. An automated system can contribute significantly to increased system accuracy, real-time tracking, early problem detection, and greater efficiency. Automating inventory management ensures the consistent availability of integral parts, such as bearings and other small components. In addition, automating inventory movement into, within, and out of warehouses with minimal human assistance can also eliminate labor-intensive tasks and manual data entry and analysis—increasing employee satisfaction while reducing the need for extra employees as operations scale.
- Identify new areas to reduce waste and change-over times. Reducing waste and optimizing change-over times are valuable strategies for manufacturers for several reasons. First, reducing waste leads to cost savings for manufacturers. Second, waste prevention helps to conserve resources, save energy, and contribute to sustainability goals. Identifying new areas to reduce waste with real-time data, reporting, and analytics is crucial in maximizing these benefits. Real-time data and analytics can provide manufacturers with a clear and up-to-date picture of their operations, allowing them to identify areas for reducing waste and optimizing processes. By using real-time data and analytics, manufacturers are making data-driven decisions that lead to increased efficiency and cost savings. Real-time reporting also helps manufacturers monitor the impact of their waste reduction efforts and continuously refine their strategies to maximize their results.
- Increase production capacity and yield rates. Manufacturers can improve production capacity and yield rates by utilizing real-time data to identify and eliminate roadblocks. For example, analytics are routinely being used to maximize machine performance and optimize production, leading to increased efficiency and productivity gains. Implementing a modern, technology-enabled enterprise resource planning (ERP) system has also been shown to contribute to increased production output. Meanwhile, real-time production and process monitoring tools can automate quality assurance processes and help manufacturers improve their first-time yield, leading to cost savings and increased production efficiency.
- Prioritize worker training and development. Manufacturers need to prioritize worker training and development in new skills to increase manufacturing efficiency. The manufacturing industry is already experiencing a skills gap, with up to 2.4 million US manufacturing jobs expected to remain unfilled due to a lack of adequate skills. By investing in training, professional development materials, and adequate learning time, manufacturers can improve the skills and efficiency of their workforce in a rapidly changing industry while also increasing employee retention and job satisfaction.
Manufacturing throughput significantly impacts a company’s sales, sustainability, and ability to attract and retain customers. To improve this metric, it’s essential to analyze company performance, create a workflow map, improve employee training, monitor machinery and assets, and take a holistic approach to the production process. By reducing waste, increasing efficiency, and streamlining the production process, companies can meet quotas, reduce remanufacturing or reprocessing costs, and increase customer satisfaction—strengthening their ability to compete while improving their bottom line.