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Manufacturers today deal with greater demands from consumers than ever before. It is vital for manufacturers to deliver on time, every time. Fail to do so and they will lose customers, revenue, and credibility.

Therefore, streamlining operations is essential. This doesn’t mean manufacturers need to invest in expensive equipment or high-performance technology. Often, what needs to change is how people work and the strategies businesses can employ to support this.

Let’s get started.

Why is it so Important to Streamline Manufacturing Operations?

Streamlining manufacturing processes ultimately maximizes a company’s profits and helps them stay competitive. Here are just some of the reasons why it’s so important:

6 Ways Manufacturers Can Streamline Operations

Streamlining operations can feel like an overwhelming task at first. However, with the right strategies in place, it doesn’t take long to improve efficiency and boost productivity. Here are six tips to get you started:

1. Identify Issues in the Production Line

Every manufacturing operation has a bottleneck. This is a stage in the manufacturing process where things slow down or perhaps even stop. Bottlenecks are a nuisance and can lead to severe delays, time and labor inefficiencies, and increased costs. Identifying bottlenecks is essential for optimizing the production line and helping everything run more efficiently.

There are a few ways you can identify issues in your production line. For instance, you should look for signs of the following:

2. Support Faster Payment Processing

As a business owner, you know the importance of faster payment processing. Whether you’re paying your suppliers or your customers are buying your products, faster payment processing keeps everything running smoothly.

The simpler your payment process is, the better so spend time to find the best card reader for your business operation. Streamlining both the supplier and customer experience by offering online payments is a game-changer.

Online payments make it easier for customers to purchase from you, removing delays in the payment process and reducing cash flow issues. This helps streamline operations and keep everything running smoothly.

3. Adopt Lean Manufacturing Methodology

Lean manufacturing methodology focuses on reducing costs by limiting waste and improving manufacturing efficiency. Lean manufacturing is a great methodology to apply to your business if you’re looking to streamline operations.

For lean manufacturing methodology to be effective, all types of waste in the manufacturing process must be identified and then removed. There are four types of waste you should focus on eliminating as a priority. These include:

  1. Unnecessary transportation of materials such as equipment, tools, and employees can be avoided simply by optimizing factory layouts.
  2. Excess inventory. Whether it’s products, materials, or equipment, having excess inventory is a waste as it increases storage costs and slows down processes.
  3. Waiting time: time-wasting is common in manufacturing operations, either due to idle workers or idle machines. It typically occurs when workers can’t work because they’re waiting on materials or equipment. Machines can be idle when waiting on maintenance or replacement. Optimizing manufacturing processes eliminates this time wasting and boosts operational efficiency.
  4. Defective products are a waste that must be reduced as much as possible. For every defective product, you have an unhappy customer. This means returns are made and apologies are required, which increases costs and wastes time.

Reducing unnecessary waste goes a long way towards reducing lead times, boosting customer satisfaction, and improving operational efficiency. It is a process of continuous improvement and manufacturers will find that regular adjustments need to be made as customer demand fluctuates. However, adopting the lean manufacturing approach will go a long way towards streamlining your operations now and in the future.

4. Embrace Automation

Automation (utilizing production management software or robots to operate machinery) reduces the need for manual labor. It avoids human error and allows for consistency across all aspects of your manufacturing process.

Many areas within manufacturing can benefit from automation, most notably: payment and accounting processes, order processing, marketing efforts, and inventory management (to name a few!)

According to Industrial Machinery Digest, “One obvious byproduct of automation is increased productivity […] The market should see more businesses turning to industrial automation on various scales. When this happens, the market will be able to see not only more innovative products produced on a larger and quicker scale, but the quality increasing with production speed.”

Adopting automation as part of your manufacturing process will help streamline your operations like nothing else. It will allow your organization to keep up with customer demands and grow as your business grows.

5. Reduce Downtime (where possible)

As mentioned earlier in this article, many things can cause your processes to bottleneck. One of these is downtime.

Downtime is a significant cause of inefficiency in the manufacturing process. Therefore, finding ways to reduce it can improve efficiency. A few common causes of downtime are:

To improve on these it is important to monitor your production processes closely. This will let you identify and address any issues quickly and efficiently.

6. Train Employees Well

For employees to do a good job and support a streamlined manufacturing process, they need to know what they’re doing and proper training supports this. Proper employee training is a surefire way to improve efficiency, boost company morale, and support business success.

Establishing an effective team through professional training lets employees add real value to your business by preparing them for higher responsibilities, increasing their productivity, strengthening any weaknesses, improving workplace safety, and boosting production overall.

If you want to streamline your manufacturing operations, it is essential that you properly train your employees. This will go a long way towards supporting your business success.

In Summary

We hope the tips shared in this article have highlighted the importance of optimizing your manufacturing processes and how to achieve this! We know that streamlining your operations can feel a little daunting at first (we’ve all been there!) But with the right strategies we know you can transform your manufacturing process and take your business to new heights.

*This article is written by Sophie Bishop. Sophie is an experienced construction writer with a passion for sharing insights and her experience within the health and safety sector. Sophie aims to spread awareness through her writing around issues to do with healthcare, wellbeing and sustainability within the industry and is looking to connect with an engaged audience. Contact Sophie via her website: https://sophiebishop.uk/.

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Not every manufacturer has the same needs. As a result, various manufacturing systems and approaches have been developed, each with its own benefits and use-cases.

Familiarity with these systems is essential for any business that needs to understand what’s available or what a given manufacturer is capable of.

These are five of the most popular options, why businesses use them, and how they may benefit a manufacturer.

1. Custom Manufacturing

The custom manufacturing system is the oldest and most popular approach. Skilled craftspeople produce every item by hand, typically with the help of equipment. Machines used are generally built for a specific purpose and can only help a worker create a single product at a time.

Custom manufacturing is associated with high costs, long production times, and high quality. Items manufactured this way are often bespoke and unique. Each product can be customized to a client’s specific needs and desires.

Examples of custom manufacturing include certain medical devices, architectural elements, and military weapons. This applies to items produced on an on-demand basis, one at a time.

The approach is not practical for products that need to be mass-produced. Batches of a large enough size may also not work with a custom manufacturing system. For this reason, most large manufacturers use other methods that allow them to produce more items at a time.

2. Job Shop or Batch/Intermittent Manufacturing

The job shop manufacturer aims to create small batches of various custom products for clients. Most items that the shop produces need unique setup and process sequencing — meaning that switching from the manufacture of one product to another can be challenging.

Most job shops manufacture custom components for business clients, like machine shops, gear manufacturers, and metal fabricators.

In some cases, job shop manufacturing may be very close to a custom manufacturing system and produce just a few items at a time. Other shops may make larger batches.

This manufacturing system makes the most sense for businesses that manufacture tailored items in small quantities for clients but do not necessarily create custom orders. When necessary, job shops will typically customize existing stock rather than create new orders from scratch.

3. Continuous-Flow or Process Manufacturing

Continuous-flow manufacturing systems are built for the mass production of a single product. As the name implies, the process flow in this system aims to be continuous, with raw materials coming in and finished products going out.

Unlike batch or job shop manufacturing, there are no breaks or stops between each step of the manufacturing process in a continuous-flow system. Instead, goods simply move from one stage to another.

Continuous-flow systems are all about volume and producing large amounts of products at the lowest cost possible. However, they may be designed to operate continuously at all times.

These systems are the go-to choice for manufacturers that need to produce a massive quantity of very similar products. Customization is typically minimal or none.

Examples of businesses that use continuous-flow manufacturing systems include mass-manufactured food and beverage products, cosmetics and plastic containers.

4. Modular Production or Manufacturing

The modular approach is another manufacturing strategy that aims to balance mass-production with flexible workflows that adapt to changing market conditions or client needs. With modular production, a manufacturing facility is designed with multiple process modules that can be slotted in and out of the site’s workflow as needed.

These modules enable a plug-and-play approach to manufacturing, where the overall production process can be quickly retooled to produce different products or components as needs dictate.

The approach can help reduce production costs by 40% and decrease time-to-market by 50%. This is often a good option to consider for businesses that need mass-production capabilities but want to remain flexible.

5. Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is less a system of manufacturing and more of a technology. Tools like 3D printers allow manufacturers to create objects by steadily adding material to a base. This is unlike the more common approach of subtractive manufacturing, where a machine or worker removes material from an object to produce a component or product.

Additive manufacturing is often less wasteful and more cost-effective than subtractive manufacturing. A 3D printer or similar machine will only use the material it needs to produce a product, so businesses will have to worry less about reusing or recycling the waste typically produced by subtractive manufacturing.

The technology is somewhat new and has significant limitations — especially for businesses trying to mass-produce goods.

The additive approach to manufacturing is most useful for businesses that need to create small batches of products and manufacture customized parts or rapidly prototype designs. However, companies will find the cost-reduction benefits of additive manufacturing will start to shrink and eventually disappear with larger orders.

Manufacturing Systems Help Companies with Different Needs

Different manufacturing systems allow companies to produce goods that meet the various needs of customers.

Custom and batch manufacturing systems work best for companies that need to produce low-volume, bespoke orders for their customers, typically other businesses. Continuous-flow and modular manufacturing help businesses that need to create large batches of products, typically with less need for customization. Companies need to tailor their method and find the best fit for their operation.

*This article is written by Devin Partida. Devin is a tech writer with an interest in IIoT and manufacturing. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.

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