The manufacturing industry has never been more competitive, so waste and inefficiency have to be avoided at all costs. Even a manufacturing process that once reflected the state of the art can fall behind in crucial ways after time has passed.
As such, it will often make sense to revisit manufacturing processes to find ways of optimizing them.
The following five steps should be included in just about every manufacturing optimization drive.
1. Analyze the Current Situation
It will never be possible to properly optimize any set of manufacturing processes unless a deep understanding of the status quo has been developed.
Whether that means looking into ad hoc, in-house arrangements or delving into large-scale Global Manufacturing Solutions, optimization should always be preceded by investigation and analysis.
In many cases, though, there will be plenty of available information that can be used to start painting a detailed picture.
Even a bit of looking into past reports and communications will help highlight any areas that require additional study.
Getting started by conducting an intensive, comprehensive analysis of the current state of affairs will ensure that subsequent optimization efforts stem from an informed place.
Although that might seem obvious, surprisingly many process optimization initiatives get kicked off without this crucial type of preparation.
2. Set Realistic, Informed Goals
Process optimization always involves compromises, and this generally means that competing goals need to be weighted and targeted appropriately.
It will almost never be possible to optimize manufacturing processes along every relevant axis at once.
Having already analyzed where things stand will make it easier to identify the goals that are most worth prioritizing.
The value of each possible target will always need to be assessed in the context of the relevant business realities.
3. Identify Relevant Metrics
With a set of prioritized goals providing guidance, an optimization initiative can start becoming more concrete.
The next step will almost always be to choose metrics which can be used to measure progress toward those goals over time.
Metrics have to be selected so as to ensure alignment with targeted goals, but also to reflect the particulars of the manufacturing process at hand.
It might not be prudent to focus too intently on minimizing error rate, for instance, if robust quality control systems have not yet been implemented.
Just how easily measurable particular metrics are should always be taken into consideration, as well.
If an optimization effort becomes too unwieldy to maintain, the odds of it going off the rails will always increase.
4. Consider Established Best Practices
Many manufacturing processes feature distinctive quirks that can make them seem irreconcilable with others.
At least a few best practices that have been developed through hard-won experience by others, though, can almost always be fruitfully applied to a given process.
In fact, looking at how and where a manufacturing process falls short of relevant best practices often ends up being the simplest way to make progress with optimization.
Even where a widely respected standard or approach proves inapplicable, the analysis that leads to that conclusion can be valuable.
5. Keep an Eye on Local Optimums
Optimizing a given manufacturing process almost always revolves around getting closer to line-level targets.
As progress is being made, though, it will always be helpful to keep localized results in view, as well.
For instance, a particular optimization tactic might improve overall line rate but leave certain pieces of equipment operating far below established capacity.
Even when such results can be safely overlooked in favour of focusing on more general goals, they can be instructive.
A More Efficient, Better-Optimized Process
Manufacturing optimization can be complicated work, but breaking it down as above tends to simplify things.
An effectively optimized manufacturing process will make a business more competitive and successful, so the effort required should always pay off.