Continuous improvement. That’s the dream of a lot of manufacturing organizations out there and, unfortunately, it’s also a lot easier said than done.
Continuous improvement is, at its core, exactly what it sounds like – a situation where you’re able to capitalize on opportunities to get better and develop more efficient processes immediately as you discover them, as opposed to being forced to watch them pass you by. More often than not, the major reason why people fall into the latter category is because they’re spending so much time dealing with waste and unnecessary work that they simply don’t have enough time to focus on those things that really matter. They’re actually moving in the wrong direction, and the worst part of all is that they might not even realize it.
Thankfully, breaking free of this situation is a lot more straightforward than you think. If you really want to eliminate waste from your manufacturing supply chain in way that makes continuous improvement a foregone conclusion, there are a few key things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Don’t Start at the Beginning, Start at the End
Never forget that absolutely everything you do as a business owner – from the services that you offer to the decisions you’re making on a daily basis – is all in service of the most important element of all: your customers and the customer experience you’re trying to generate.
Therefore, if you truly want to eliminate waste from your manufacturing supply chain, you need to start not at the beginning but at the very end – with the customers themselves.
Customers can always be a useful source of feedback when it comes to looking for room to improve your own processes. Rest assured, they have opinions and really all you have to do is listen to them. Maybe there’s something about your order fulfillment process that they just don’t like, or your delivery schedules are good but could be great if you’d done X, Y and Z. Regardless, start with those areas of your supply chain that directly impact the customer and solicit feedback whenever you can.
If nothing else, this will help show people that you’re very much paying attention and that you care about what they have to say. The loyalty that this will help build alone is often more than worth the effort for most businesses.
Gain Visibility Into Your ENTIRE Supply Chain
If you want to put yourself in a position to continuously improve as a business, it stands to reason that you need to know as much about A) your true potential, and B) your current status, as possible. That, in essence, is why the right downtime tracking and OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) solution like Thrive is so essential – because you can’t track what you’re not measuring and Thrive is built to give you total visibility into the entirety of your production lines, no exceptions.
Thrive is plug and play by its very nature, which means that there is no server or PLC required and absolutely no software to install. Within just a few seconds of activation, you can access the dashboard on any device you own with an active Internet connection. That Thrive dashboard will allow you to begin instantly tracking machine downtime in a way that lets you define a reason from nearly any device on the shop floor. Not only that, but thanks to historical data and built-in reporting you can track your progress in real-time, seeing exactly how certain changes you’re making today will benefit your supply chain tomorrow.
In a larger sense, this means that if your own current processes are one of the major sources of waste across your production lines, Thrive is how you’re going to find out about it. Once you know what is working and (more importantly) what isn’t, you put yourself in an excellent position to double down on the former and get rid of the latter as soon as possible. Plus, with Thrive, you can track your production line efficiency in real-time and analyze trends according to the shift, the line or even the SKU.
Communication is King
Finally, understand that one of the major ways to eliminate waste across your manufacturing supply chain involves enabling and strengthening communication wherever possible.
Think about it like this: part of what allows people to operate at peak efficiency involves their ability to stay on the same page and keep moving in the same direction at all times. They need to be able to collaborate with one another, but they can’t do that if the communication capabilities just isn’t there.
Therefore, to really eliminate waste from your supply chain, you need a better understanding of how information flows from one place to another. You should map your communications processes from start to finish, all in the name of highlighting breakdowns and diving deep into why those issues exist. You’ll be able to spot a wide array of different common problems, like redundant loops in the flow of information, situations where multiple people are required to separately sign off on a process before the next step can occur, and more. You’ll even be able to identify certain gaps or unexpected dead ends in your communication capabilities, all so that you can put a stop to them as soon as you can.
At the end of the day, remember that the quest for continuous improvement isn’t something you “do once and forget about.” Waste can appear when you least expect it, and it is especially a problem once you stop paying attention. Therefore, you need to be proactive about these steps or you run the risk of once again working with an inefficient supply chain in the future.
If you’d like to find out more information about how to best eliminate waste in your manufacturing supply chain, or if you just have any additional questions that you’d like to discuss with someone about Thrive and our innovative downtime tracking solution in a bit more detail, please don’t delay – contact us today.
About the Author:
This Article is written by Tim Saddoris, the founder of Thrive MES – a provider of downtime tracking and OEE software for clients in food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, automotive manufacturing, metal product manufacturing, and other related industries.