Efficient production is imperative to maintain key operations for any manufacturing facility. With the current labor shortage affecting nearly every industry, and the ongoing pandemic impacting the global supply chain, facility operators are turning to creative solutions to meet production goals. Increasing productivity and efficiency is key to resolving this challenge.

Increasing Automation

Even the smallest equipment modifications can lead to improvements that save operators both time and money. With the pandemic leading to an increased focus on health-conscious processes in facilities, the focus on people must be made apparent. This will help develop a robust workforce that can withstand production challenges. For example, time could be saved by an operator completing a tedious quality check earlier rather than at the end of a process line.

The routine maintenance of cleaning equipment and performing evaluations is a process that can be automated. By modifying existing robotics systems to perform these regular tasks, facility operators can lighten the load on in-person staff, while still maintaining the crucial activities needed to keep the plant running. With more people working remotely, facilities have an increased chance to make these modifications without shutting down production. Additionally, an increase in remote work has reduced costs for facilities — money that can be invested back into operations.

People-Focused Approach

With so much emphasis on meeting production goals, much of the modern workforce is increasingly burned out and overworked. Pandemic fatigue and long hours have led to a stressful work-life balance for many in the past few years. Cross-training staff is a strategy facility operators can use to support workers and bring in a wide variety of perspectives into improving the facility. This will lead to staff from all levels taking ownership of the plant’s success and providing strategies for an efficiently run operating process. This could include having personnel switch roles on the production line to add variety to mundane operations. This additional perspective might even offer alternative production solutions that eliminate or combine existing steps.

Additionally, ergonomic studies should be conducted to reduce workplace injuries and improve the well-being of employees. This emphasis on a people-focused approach will lead to increasingly loyal employees and a workplace that provides an emphasis on safety-centered behaviors.

With upgraded working conditions, the productivity of employees will likely increase, leading to efficient operational processes and happier staff. Integrating components that reduce the amount of work needed to complete a task, such as providing automated label printing and applications to packages compared to peeling labels from a spool, can lead to dramatic long-term time savings.

Actively seeking employees’ input on production improvements will pave the way for the entire team to take ownership over facility efficiency. The individuals completing these jobs every day often have perspective on ways to increase productivity to save facilities time and money.

 

 

Industrial automation through robotics is more accessible than ever. Consider integrating this competitive advantage into your process.

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Nicholas Williams is an associate mechanical engineer at Burns & McDonnell. With a career that spans more than 25 years, he has extensive experience helping manufacturing clients develop production solutions with technological advancements.