Operational bottlenecks are an inherent part of manufacturing processes. You cannot completely avoid them, no matter how hard you try.
But minimizing them should be a priority because they can lower productivity, reduce output, increase operational costs, and cause wastage.
They may even cause downtime, which is perhaps the most daunting concern for manufacturers. Together, these factors can affect the revenues and profits of your plant in the long run.
Addressing manufacturing bottlenecks, therefore, should be on top of your checklists. Fortunately, removing them and streamlining your processes is easier than you imagine.
You only need to stay ahead of the challenges and resolve them sooner than later. While there are no shortcuts to overcoming manufacturing bottlenecks, you can follow these actionable tips to deal with them effectively.
1. Evaluate your production line
The best way to bottleneck-proof your manifesting plant is by evaluating all aspects of your production line. Start by measuring throughput in a given period and comparing it with the optimal value.
A difference may indicate a problem with specific machines, people, or processes. Reviewing your capacity utilization is the next step.
It enables you to identify the production lines running at their highest possible output. Together, these metrics illustrate the potential cost of downtime to your business.
Manufacturers are likely to take bottlenecks more seriously when they realize the painful financial implications they may entail.
2. Identify wasteful practices
Identifying wasteful practices and eliminating them in the first place is perhaps the best way to manage operational bottlenecks.
In fact, you may avoid them with timely and appropriate measures. Consider how wasteful practices can lower employee productivity and increase costs for your business.
But eliminating them is not a one-time job. You must continue working toward checking evolving issues and implementing data-driven processes to improve manufacturing productivity & efficiency.
Further, plant managers can rely on improvement tools like value stream maps to address existing bottlenecks and take steps to avoid future ones.
3. Update Technology
You can resolve bottlenecks sooner than later by updating technology. Providing your workers with the tools that boost their efficiency is a great start.
Likewise, consider upgrading equipment and automating processes to speed up workflows and minimize errors. You may have some qualms about the hefty upfront investments of tech upgrades, but the paybacks make them worthwhile.
Embracing such improvements does more than improve operating efficiency. It also boosts employee morale and retention, and people who stay tend to make fewer errors that affect the production line.
Moreover, you can find inexpensive upgrades that cost less yet deliver more.
4. Prioritize risk management
The manufacturing segment is inherently risky because even a small mishap can lead to massive bottlenecks. Accidents affect employee morale, hurt efficiency, and may even lead to downtime and lawsuits. You can prevent them by being more proactive with safety measures.
Invest in the right equipment to cover the industry-specific risks. For example, chemical manufacturers must understand how magnetic drive pumps work to handle leakage of aggressive or risky liquids such as acids, alkalis, corrosives, toxins, and pollutants. Installing these pumps makes you stress-free about worker safety.
Employee training, personal protective equipment, signage installation, and routine safety checks are some other risk management measures to prevent unnecessary challenges.
5. Get organized
A disorganized workspace and team can lead to manufacturing bottlenecks sooner than later. You can overcome them by organizing your work floor and standardizing your processes to bring the workforce on the same page.
Optimize the entire repeatable cycle, from how your team collaborates to how they handle tools on the shop floor. Also, quantify every process, even beyond the ones running on the shop floor.
A bottleneck in the supply chain or back office can be as disruptive as one in the production line. So a holistic approach to workplace organization can be more helpful than you imagine.
6. Invest in preventive maintenance
Unexpected equipment breakdowns are among the most prominent causes of operational bottlenecks. Your operations may come to a halt when a machine suffers a sudden breakdown during scheduled operations.
The worst part is that getting the systems back on track may be unpredictable. Imagine not getting a part for immediate replacement or not being able to locate an expert to repair the machine.
You can address these challenges by investing in preventive maintenance of equipment and keeping replacement parts on hand. Timely checks, replacements, and repairs can save your operations from downtime. Also, encourage employees to report issues sooner than later.
7. Rework your training processes
Surprisingly, errors in employee training can be an unexpected cause of manufacturing bottlenecks. Employee inefficiency is often not intentional, but inadequate or improper training is the real culprit.
New employees are at high risk of inefficiency and errors if you do not give enough time to define processes and outline protocols. Even old ones may go wrong if you fail to train them to align with the evolving tools and technologies.
Implementing well-defined standardized operating procedures (SOPs) is the best way to help new and old employees give their best. Also, ramp up your training processes frequently by identifying lags in employee skills, knowledge, and processes.
8. Consider recycling
You may do your best to prevent bottlenecks and inefficiencies in your production line. But things may still go wrong and lead to wastage. You can consider a recycling program to reuse waste and by-products of manufacturing.
Ideally, recycling should cover everything that may potentially find reuse in the production process.
Alternatively, you can collaborate with a recycling partner to hand over leftovers or scraps to ensure they do not reach landfills. Besides improving production efficiency, an effective waste management process makes your manufacturing unit sustainable and reduces production costs.
Identifying manufacturing bottlenecks should be a priority for manufacturers. The sooner you address them, the better because the smallest ones can cost a fortune to your business.
Fortunately, resolving operational inefficiencies is easier than you imagine. You can implement these actionable tips to steer clear of the avoidable ones and close the others.
The initiative may require time, effort, and investment, but it is worthwhile as it can boost your profits in the long run.