How to Improve Operational Efficiency in Manufacturing

9 min read

At the top of the list of challenges for any HR department in the manufacturing sector is how to improve operational efficiency. 

Getting the best out of every product line is difficult enough, not to mention trying to keep on-the-clock workers productive without leading to burnout. 

Employee retention is also a challenge, with a rotating door of workers leading to excessive time spent on recruitment and training and general poor efficiency.

Poor efficiency means your production lines aren’t working at full productivity, so you’ll miss out on valuable profits and get less bang for your buck when it comes to labor costs. 

The good news? There are easy ways to improve your company’s operational efficiency

Here are some of the most effective: 

Table of Contents

Identify the biggest bottlenecks

From rush hour traffic to airport security queues, bottlenecks can be found across all industries.

In fact, they’re so common that we tend to underestimate the negative impact they can have on a company’s efficiency and profits. 

The Economist found that bottlenecks increase costs for manufacturers. On top of that, there’s the indirect opportunity cost of products not making it to the consumer on time. 

When it comes to a production line in the manufacturing industry, time is literally money.

Even a temporary bottleneck can significantly slow down production speed and result in fewer products being made in a given time period. 

Bottlenecks in manufacturing can occur when a particular machine fails, leading to the inability of another machine or worker to complete their tasks in time. 

If all machines and processes aren’t in sync, workers on one production line will have to wait until the work is complete on a previous production line before they can move on to their part of the process. 

If a high proportion of the work relies on other workers completing a previous task, you’re left with an inefficient workforce with bottlenecks occurring during every stage of the manufacturing process. 

The first step in reducing the chance of these bottlenecks occurring is identifying the biggest ones currently at play in your workplace.

Look for areas where products accumulate because the input of items happens faster than the items’ processing. From there, see if the efficiency of that production line can be improved with more dedicated workers or machines. 

Level up your training

In the manufacturing industry, new technologies are constantly being introduced. 

One of the key components of an efficient workplace is a workforce that’s kept up-to-date with the latest technology. 

The quicker your employees work, the less chance of bottlenecks building up, and the more products can be produced in a given time period. 

But how should you train these employees and regularly refresh their knowledge?

Companies often rely on senior, more experienced staff members to train junior employees, but this approach can eat into the time that senior staff members have to complete their own tasks. Finding the right balance between training staff and staying on top of tasks is key. 

Deep Sigh, a Montreal-based augmented reality company offers a simplified training method that helps employees perform high-skilled roles and keep up to date with the latest technology. 

The platform’s real-time adaptability and visual capabilities allow employees to learn at their own pace, which frees up time for your supervisors to get on with their day-to-day tasks. 

If augmented reality isn’t for you, offer regular classes and training sessions to your employees. While you may be reluctant to take an hour out of your employees’ day for training, you’ll save tons more time in the long run through improved operational efficiency.  

Plus, upskilled workers can fill internal roles as they come up, which can be less costly and time-consuming than recruiting externally

Automate manual efforts

Carrying out manual tasks that can easily be automated is one of the biggest wastes of time and money. 

Identifying and implementing tasks that can easily be automated frees up your employee’s time to focus on profit-maximizing ones.

Forecast supply & demand

One of the biggest challenges manufacturers face is meeting product demands without reducing the quality of those products. 

Forecasting supply and demand with traditional techniques can be tricky, especially when coupled with a focus on ensuring employees don’t violate any safety regulations.

To ensure you’re producing exactly the right amount of products as required, automate your supply and demand forecasting with an approach that makes use of algorithms to predict the demand for particular products. 

Use real-time data to inform your business decisions

Much of employees’ time is spent on administrative tasks that are essential for running your business but don’t directly contribute to profits.

These indirect costs can negatively impact your bottom line and create a less efficient workplace. 

Luckily, there’s a solution. Evolia’s automated workforce management platform is tailored to manufacturing. Providing real-time data helps free up your manual administration time.

Having access to information about which employees have punched in and out saves you from having to constantly check schedules and attendance. Find out more about Evolia’s time and attendance features.

Plus, the handy smart scheduling feature helps you to make better business decisions, such as knowing which employees to assign to a shift and where you can save money on overtime. 

Plan ahead to maximize availability

Whether you’re planning customer demands, workforce needs, or shifts, the earlier you have information, the more options you’ll have. 

If you plan employee shifts far in advance, you’ll book your employees in when they have more availability, and there’s more opportunity for them to reshuffle schedules to fit into the rota. 

When you leave shift scheduling to the last minute, you rely on the presumption that employees are free for your shifts, leading to inevitable staff shortages and overspending on overtime to fill gaps.

The further ahead you plan, the higher the likelihood of operations running smoothly. 

Encourage employee collaboration

Despite the need for collaboration between staff members, senior employees can’t always be on the floor to provide feedback or show junior employees how to use specific machinery. 

Managers often have administrative tasks that require an office, leaving a communication gap between floor workers and their supervisors. Many questions don’t require a face-to-face meeting, they can be easily answered with a quick set of instant messages. 

With this in mind, it’s beneficial to create a communication channel that senior employees can use to help new employees or create polls to receive feedback and suggestions. 

Allowing employees at every level to collaborate and have a say fosters a sense of belonging, increasing employee engagement and productivity

Evolia’s built-in messaging allows everyone to stay in the loop, whether with team-based chats or one-on-one messaging.

The inclusion of read receipts lets you know which team members have got your message, plus the document sharing feature allows you to share files directly through Evolia.

No more wasting time walking between the office and the production line for a simple question.

With an instant messaging platform, get quick responses to your queries, and work collaboratively on projects with your colleagues.

Adopt a proactive, not reactive, approach

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.

Especially when it comes to preventative maintenance which helps you get ahead of any issues, and addresses potential problems before they become faults and lead to downtime.

Many bottlenecks are created by machinery not working as efficiently as it should or even breaking. Rather than waiting for machines to fail, perform regular tests to ensure the machines can run at full capacity and fix any minor issues that appear during your routine checks. 

Tackling potential machinery issues before they occur reduces the money lost by poor inefficiency and the likelihood of having to buy a new machine to replace the malfunctioning one. 

Focus on safety

When it comes to maximizing efficiency, there’s a temptation to put employees on extremely long shifts and cut corners when it comes to testing machinery to save time.

While this approach might save you time and maximize your efficiency in the short term, you’ll run into more problems in the long term. 

While you might save an hour in the short term on checking machinery, you’ll waste a lot more time in the future trying to fix broken equipment or purchase a new machine if you don’t carry out regular maintenance checks. 

Employees who are overworked and exhausted will develop burnout, leaving you with staff shortages and multiple employees wanting to take time off on the same days.

With real-time data, Evolia’s scheduling app helps you avoid paying unnecessary overtime and scheduling the same staff on too many shifts.

 End result? Reduces employee burnout and helps you lead a happier, more productive workforce. 

The Bottom Line

There are numerous benefits of improving operational efficiency that your company can enjoy with only a few easy tweaks. 

By identifying and fixing bottlenecks, automating manual processes, and focusing on regular equipment maintenance, you can enjoy unparalleled operational efficiency with tons of benefits for your company. 

When your workforce and operations are more efficient, you’ll enjoy increased profits for less time, and spend less time on time-consuming manual tasks. 

With extra time and money that can be reinvested into your business to help set it up for greater success, what’s not to like?

To find out more about how you can revolutionize your workplace with automation, get a free demo of Evolia.

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