Running a small manufacturing unit comes with a host of challenges. There is a need to balance the books, while at the same time improving output and quality without compromising health and safety.
With investment and funding in short supply, many small manufacturing units are looking for ways to improve their processes without breaking the bank. Here are three ways in which almost any process can be made more efficient at a relatively low cost.
1 Identify and eliminate waste
All manufacturing processes create waste either as a by-product of the process itself or from the process being carried out incorrectly, therefore creating scrap.
Waste by-products can be kept to a minimum by ensuring that the operation is planned correctly. For instance, in the very simple example of cutting shapes from a sheet of metal, are the shapes laid out in such a way that makes the most of the area?
The next step is to discover if that by-product can be re-purposed for another part of your process, or if it has a monetary value to someone else, and can therefore be sold off rather than thrown away.
If a process is being carried out incorrectly due to poor skills or training, the cost can be high. There is the manpower cost of having to repeat the, as well as the material cost of having to throw away (or sell off) any products that can’t be saved.
The answer here is to ensure the training of all operators is up to date, and that the process you have in place is fit for purpose.
2 Review your operations and automate wherever possible
Reviewing longstanding processes can be a real eye-opener. What was once a simple process has developed over time, possibly to the point that the operation should no longer be carried out manually. This is also true for any process where the volume has now exceeded what is possible with manual operation.
Automating a process does not have to be overly expensive. For instance, replacing repetitive welding operations with one or more automatic welding machines can increase efficiency (and cut down on repeat work and scrap) to the point where it becomes cost-effective.
3 Identify and remove bottlenecks
In all manufacturing processes, some operations take longer than others. Processes such as drying and painting are notoriously long-winded, so work will tend to pile up behind these operations. If this process cannot be automated, then the provision of extra labor is necessary. Another solution may be to try and split the process if possible—it can add an extra operation to the process but will speed up overall production.
This can also be helped by carrying out an in-process inspection before this operation so that nothing goes through a long process, only to be rejected or sent for re-work afterward.
These are by no means the only solutions, but they are a good starting point or framework on which to build your strategy.