8 steps to improve plant performance

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), UK workers produced less during 2014 than they did in 2007. The actual output per worker fell by 0.2 per cent. While this is a major concern for the government and the outlook for UK economic growth, this news is even more worrying for individual manufacturers. While order levels may be rising, without improved output, your profits will fall as costs continue to rise.

So how can you boost your factory performance to achieve world-class productivity and better profits? Try our ‘top-8’ recommended list to kick-start performance on your factory floor.

1. Use live ‘work-to’ lists

Do your workers “cherry pick” the jobs they work on, or tackle what’s most important for the business? How much time do they waste trying to find out what they should be doing next?

Give the shop floor a clear list of jobs in priority order. Priorities can rapidly change, so ensure this list is regularly updated – preferably ‘live’. Move away from paper-based job lists that are out of date as soon as they are printed. Ensure that the work-to list only shows jobs that are ready, where the pre-requisite operations have already been completed.

2. Track jobs in real time

Does your sales team have to call the Production Manager to find out when a job will ship to the customer? Does the Production Manager then have to walk the shop floor to get the answer, before returning the sales person’s call?

Recording the start and completion of each operation in real-time, and feeding that information to an online management dashboard, will enable your sales team to update their customers then and there while they have them on the phone. Your organisation will be more responsive and able to improve delivery performance.

3. Calculate actual costs on the fly

Do you spend hours trying to figure out how much a job has actually cost? Is gathering the data a process involving paper trails and timesheets?

Automate time tracking (both man hours and elapsed hours) for completed operations. Add this to a real-time log of materials used, and you will be able to automate actual job costings, which will be far more accurate than your time-consuming manual processes.

Compare these actual costs to your standard costs to see where you can further improve productivity. Check that your pricing is accurate – not so high that it’s uncompetitive or too low to make a profit.

4. Measure the cost of non-quality

How much does it cost you when something goes wrong?

Use the information from step 3 to accurately identify the wasted time and materials as a result of test failures and rejects. Identify the root causes of poor- and non-quality and invest the money you’ll save from the cost of non-quality to fix the problems. Reduce rework, materials waste and improve delivery-to-promise performance.

5. Tell your operators how they’re doing

Do your individual workers know how productive they are, as a team and compared to other operators? If not, how can you expect them to improve?

By giving your workers feedback about their performance you will empower them to become more productive. Developing real-time factory performance metrics, and presenting these (selectively) to your workers, will drive accountability and reinforce the importance of their contribution to the business. Gather the data, be open and transparent, get more from your human capital and develop a continuous improvement culture.

6. Define and apply best practice

Do you know your optimum workflows? Are your operators adhering to best practice?

Measure and define the best way to do things. Enforce your optimum processes to ensure that they are followed consistently by all of your workers, with all steps executed in the correct order. Continue to measure and refine all of your workflows for continuous improvement.

7. Build in compliance

Is compliance an overhead that happens after the manufacturing process? Do you dedicate skilled resources to document that workers follow the correct processes?

Build the checks and balances into your workflows to ensure that only fully qualified people are working on the right jobs to the latest standards. Have your systems record all the quality and traceability information that you need in today’s highly regulated industries. Provide top quality product and service to your customers and a safe environment for your workers.

8. Put a stop to paper trails

Are you still chasing paper reports and spreadsheets around the factory?

Traditional approaches to shop floor data collection (SFDC) are a cause of data re-entry that can waste time and are a source of errors for essential operational factory data. Electronic SFDC, including the use of electronic build records, save operator and supervisor time and improve material traceability.

Next steps

You may like and agree with our plant improvement recommendations. But perhaps you’re struggling to think how you can put them into practice without spending a fortune or getting board-level buy-in for a major factory upgrade?

MESTECs software can enable all of the ‘performance kick-starters’ we’ve outlined above. We can typically provision a factory within a week. And you don’t need a huge capex budget to pay for it because we offer it ‘as a service’ for a low monthly fee based on the number of touch terminals you need.

Get in touch today to supercharge your factory performance.