Every business can benefit from improving the efficiency of its business – from streamlining the hiring process to reducing distribution and marketing expenses. For firms that focus on manufacturing, utilizing efficient “factory flow” techniques can help improve the quality, speed, and reliability of the manufacturing process – increasing profits and reducing waste along the way.
What is Factory Flow?
Factory flow refers to the physical and chronological process of turning raw materials into finished goods. It will include many different steps, like delivery of materials, storage of raw materials, transportation of materials to a production line or area, manufacturing, packaging, and preparation for distribution and all other intermediary steps.
Focusing on the entirety of the “flow” of the manufacturing process, a manufacturing consultant can collect and analyze information concerning routing, storage needs, handling equipment and packaging, and other data. Then, the consultant can recommend changes or improvements that reduce material flow distances, improve labor efficiency, and reduce costs.
For example, a consultant might evaluate a factory that receives deliveries on the west side of the building but begins the manufacturing process on the east side. By redesigning the production line to begin at the west side, both time and money are saved, products are distributed faster, and traffic congestion around the property is reduced. Although there may be up-front costs for the redesign, a manufacturing consultant should be able to calculate actual projected savings to determine whether that investment is advantageous.
The Importance of Efficiencies Across All Lines
Every manufacturing process relies on multiple steps. Delays in just one area can throw a wrench into the entire process.
For example, a manufacturing consultant realizes after some observation and data collection that a significant amount of delay is caused by the amount of time it takes a supervisor to walk to a supply storage area in another part of the building and reload her machine. The consultant may recommend, as part of an overall redesign plan, that the raw materials be stored closer to the machine. Removing this downtime may increase overall production.
Conversely, increasing efficiency in just one area without considering the effect on the overall process can be a waste of time and effort if the benefit will be negated at a chokepoint further down the line.
If the packaging division is unable to keep up with the increased production and continues to distribute products at the same rate as before the improvement, there will be less overall gain to the organization.
It’s vital to look at the design of the entire production system to maximize efficiency as a whole, and the physical layout of a facility plays a huge role.
Designing a Layout/Flow That Works Best for Your Operation
Experienced manufacturing consulting firms work hand-in--hand with clients to analyze each task in the manufacturing process and develop a layout that maximizes efficiency for their unique production needs. More efficient factory layouts enable material to travel less, reducing the necessary on-site lot sizes and inventory levels. Improving material flow can reduce the staffing needs for certain operations, allowing fewer workers to effectively and safely handle more production, and decrease energy use (and costs). Smarter decisions about the physical layout of the facilities and improved process flow can improve communications, minimize space and overhead requirements, decrease manufacturing costs, and improve overall productivity.
Cornerstone Consulting Organization’s manufacturing consultants can assist your business with all manner of productivity improvement methods, including factory flow analysis and optimization, lean & six sigma, ergonomics, and more. Contact us today to learn more.