How to Improve Manufacturing Processes

employee working on a laptop

Manufacturing forms the bedrock of the world’s economy and encompasses practically every industry, from aviation, shipbuilding, electronics, automobiles, textiles, and even food production. Tens of millions of skilled workers are employed by thousands of companies to create all sorts of products. None of these would be possible without efficient manufacturing processes.

The manufacturing chain is long and complicated. Some processes are simple: many food producers use the farm-to-factory model. Corn and sugar are harvested by the ton and sent to processing centers where they are turned into cornflakes. Meanwhile, complex electronics rely on semi-products and raw materials sourced from all over the world. For instance, the creation of microchips starts in distant mines and ends in clean rooms inside big-box factories thousands of miles away.

Our manufacturing processes have progressed by leaps and bounds since the Industrial Revolution. Crude and dirty methods of production have been largely supplanted by automation and digitization. Of course, the bulk of the work is still performed by people, but work conditions have definitely improved since then.

Of course, there are many ways to improve your processes, whether you’re a small-scale workshop or a rotary die-cutter manufacturer. Here are a few ways you can increase your efficiency.

1. Check your current setup

It all depends on what you produce, but there are many different ways to set up a supply chain. The final flow of your factory setup depends on a wide range of factors, including the layout of the building, the machinery you’re going to use, and the technology available to you. One thing to consider, though: it’s easier to start from scratch than to change an existing layout.

Changing your setup isn’t as simple as moving a few machines around. First, start by studying the setup of the supply chain or the physical plant. Consider your needs and try to eliminate bottlenecks. Redundancies are good, but you don’t want to tinker too much with the economics.

One thing you need to consider is the location of the factory. Big buildings often have more leeway than small workshops since they’re located on the outskirts of populated areas. If your building is located near a residential area, you may need to invest in noise reduction upgrades. That way, you won’t attract as many complaints from residents.

2. Adopt a top-down approach

Process upgrades can be as small or big as you need them to be. Start on top-level improvements and work your way down. For instance, a sample process would be to adopt a manufacturing process, finalize the supply chain, choose the machinery, and then work out the supply chain’s kinks. Once the fundamentals are set, you can focus on making changes at the granular level.

Let’s say you process metals. If you’re looking for a way to improve your cutting processes, you’ll probably start by looking at new machinery for your setup. A water cutter is a good investment since they’re fast, efficient, and don’t take up much space. You can either supplement your existing machines by buying a few units or replace them altogether.

Next, focus on the individual tools that workers will use. Many businesses have turned to acetylene torches for handheld cutting. They’re versatile and cheap, and readily accessible. You may have to retrain your personnel, though.

3. Don’t forget hand tools

hand tools in manufacturing

There are two kinds of hand tools: general and specific. General hand tools are found in every toolbox regardless of what you produce, such as screwdrivers, wrenches, and the like. On the other hand, specific tools are used in settings unique to your setup. Contractors use nail guns all the time, but someone in food processing will have no use for them at all.

Businesses that deal in metalworking have to work with a lot of specific tools. One might think that cutting metal is straightforward, but there are many processes one has to consider. For instance, some manufacturers might need nibblers, a tool attachment that cuts through sheet metal. You also may need to invest in a wide variety of shears.

Not all specific tools are limited to one industry, however. Some tools are used by both manufacturing and construction. For instance, angle grinders are routinely used in shipbuilding, aviation, and general construction. You can also use them for making precision cuts on metal. Another similar tool is the bandsaw. They can be seen in both metalworking and woodworking shops. Many contractors also use them in construction sites for precision cutting.

The bottom line

These are just some of the ways you can refine your processes and eliminate inefficiencies in your system. You don’t have to change your setup from top to bottom to effect change. Small adjustments to your supply chain can translate to bigger improvements down the line.

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