How to Improve Manufacturing Productivity

The more effective your manufacturing productivity, the more money your business can make. Variables that interfere with productivity, such as broken machinery, are sometimes easy to identify. Sometimes, however, issues aren't as easy to see, such as if too much is going on at once and the complexity slows down your entire operation. As you get in the habit of looking for ways to improve manufacturing productivity, you'll build on your ability to see problems and address them.

Data Is Key

As you understand more about what's going on in your manufacturing processes, you become better positioned to improve productivity. Collect data regularly, and reflect on this information to identify patterns and concerns. Track the number of production hours included in payroll, and how much product has been manufactured. Count inventory periodically, and calculate how often you turn over the amount you typically have on hand.

Track the time it usually takes to manufacture each item you sell. Once you've collected this information, look for variables that correlate with particularly strong or particularly disappointing numbers. You may discover that output per hour decreases when a particular employee is on the floor, pointing to a personnel issue that should be addressed. Or, you may find that one of your products is considerably more expensive to produce than the others.

By shifting your marketing energy towards the items you can produce with greatest efficiency, you'll increase productivity, making and moving more of what you do well.

Break Work Flow Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks are places in your work flow where production gets backed up because your processes aren't in sync. If it takes longer to cut cloth than it does to stitch it together, your shirt manufacturing process may stall while the person who is supposed to be sewing is waiting for the fabric to be cut to size. Identify bottlenecks in your manufacturing process and improve workflow so production moves through interconnected phases smoothly. Adding equipment or personnel at the cutting stage could alleviate the issue of idle sewing time, saving payroll hours.

Keep Inventory Low

Although inventory is listed on a balance sheet as an asset, it's actually not in your best interests to have too much of it. An inventory glut can interfere with manufacturing productivity by getting in the way, creating clutter and making it difficult to find what you need – when you need it. Keep as much inventory on hand to make what you need, but avoid stocking up unnecessarily. Develop a clear, efficient system for communicating when an item is low, and order it in time to avoid interrupting your production.