Manufacturing operational efficiency is something that all manufacturers constantly need to focus on, and there is no finish line. It would be great to make a number of improvements and then tell yourself “good job, now we can just sit back and keep signing clients.” Unfortunately, that’s not realistic. The truth is that no manufacturer is ever finished working on their manufacturing operational efficiency. Not Toyota, not Amazon, not Apple, nobody. There is always something to improve, and always someone trying to do your job better, quicker, and cheaper than you already are.
In order to grow or stay ahead of the competition, you need to proactively look for ways to boost your manufacturing operational efficiency and develop a competitive advantage for yourself.
In this article, we will cover 2 ways or 2 things that you can change and implement into your factory today to improve operational efficiency on the plant floor and across the company as a whole.
1. Start Gathering Data
There are so many ways that you can gather data today. Some are much more efficient than others, and some are much easier and cheaper than others. While some options are undoubtedly superior to others, you have to start somewhere. Many people understandably are not ready and willing to jump straight into the higher-end IIoT / manufacturing analytics solutions. It’s fine to start easy and small with a basic and cheap solution, however, if you want to continually improve manufacturing operational efficiency you will have to make the necessary upgrades when appropriate.
Easiest and Cheapest Solution
Modern technology has provided us with much more detailed and efficient ways to gather data. That being said, you can still gather data with nothing more than some back-to-school supplies. It doesn’t get more basic and cost-efficient than pen and paper, or a whiteboard and some dry erase markers.
That is all you need to start gathering some basic data on the plant floor. I mentioned that this would be the easiest solution. By easiest I mean that this is the easiest way to get started, a quick stop at Walmart or target and you have everything you need. The actual data gathering process is also easy. You just need to write down the basic data you are gathering from your equipment, simple. Extremely easy to start, but this type of solution also comes with a very low ceiling.
Pros of pen and paper/whiteboard reporting system-
- Easy to get started
- A good starting point to becoming a data-driven manufacturer
Cons of pen and paper/whiteboard reporting system-
- Very basic data
- The time investment to manually record data
- Not a centralized solution
- Older data, not in real-time
- Minimal or no sharing of data between other people in the company
Most Efficient Solution to Boost Manufacturing Operational Efficiency
Real-time analytics, a centralized solution, accurate and detailed data seamlessly shared between everyone in the company are some benefits you will receive from a proper IIoT or manufacturing analytics solution. It may not be as cheap as a notebook, but if you make data-driven decisions and act on them, the return will be well worth it. Investing in an IIoT system will give you the competitive edge that you need. These types of systems provide you with deep, accurate, and detailed data in real-time, this can set you apart from your competition.
Pros of IIoT/Manufacturing analytics
- Deep and detailed data
- Contextualized data delivered to people, no time spent manually gathering information
- A centralized solution available for everyone at any time
- Real-time data
- Accurate data extracted directly from the equipment itself, no room for human error
Cons of IIoT/Manufacturing analytics
- More expensive than notebook/whiteboard
- Can be a bit of a learning curve to adjust to a modern system
The bottom line is that you need to be gathering and analyzing data to improve manufacturing operational efficiency. Without data, you are likely taking a shot in the dark when deciding on improvements and adjustments. Become data-driven and establish a data-driven culture among your company. It would be a wise decision to get started sooner rather than later with whichever solution suits your current needs and goals better. Companies that are just getting started on their data-driven manufacturing journey may choose to start simple and prove the value before jumping in. Companies that are further along in their data-driven manufacturing journey that have proven to themselves that there is tremendous value in good data, may opt for a proper IIoT solution.
2. Enable Your Employees to Set Goals and take Action
This can be a mindset and an action. Use modern tools and technology to your advantage. You need to be recording data to improve manufacturing operational efficiency. However, just recording and analyzing data is not enough. Once you make your data-driven decisions you need to make sure that you actually carry out those decisions. If you are gathering data just to look at where you stand, you aren’t getting the most out of your investment.
Establish a data-driven company culture. Enable your operators to act on their decisions. Many companies get tied up in the technology and just want the best system available. A nice system is great, but it needs to be utilized correctly. Let the data drive your decisions and let those decisions drive action.
Analyze where you are today, and set goals for the future. The data will tell you where you need to focus. Operators know the machines and equipment very well, and they want to be efficient. They also know that they have current expectations, and might not want to take the time to make any adjustments, a short-term sacrifice. On the other hand, for the long-term, it is greatly beneficial to make the adjustment, improving your manufacturing process. Then you can reap the benefits from there on out.
This is why it’s important to establish a data-driven culture among the company. Employees should not feel hesitant to spend time making improvements based on good data. Be proactive about solving problems, and improving efficiency even when there is “nothing wrong.” Don’t forget to keep tracking after making adjustments to see if they actually helped or not. Remember the goal is to improve manufacturing operational efficiency, not just to make as many adjustments as possible.
Final Thoughts on Boosting Manufacturing Operational Efficiency
These are two things that you can implement today to boost manufacturing operational efficiency. If you start simple, you can start instantly at virtually no cost. There is no excuse for manufacturers to continue guessing and making decisions based on past experiences or a gut feeling. Simply put, you need to gather accurate data in an efficient manner and actually drive action from the data.
Equip your employees with a proactive mindset, provide them with the necessary tools and data, develop a competitive advantage, and establish yourself as an industry leader.