Will you achieve the best possible manufacturing throughput when people work as hard as they can and machinery runs at top speeds? Many manufacturers feel that way. They fine-tune their equipment for best performance and incentivize employees for working quickly.
Actually, the answer is: Possibly. Maybe not. It depends.
Doing and producing more as quickly as possible is a simplistic approach to improving manufacturing throughput. It can result in various kinds of waste. In mass manufacturing, the output at a very efficient production line may be high, but it idles if materials and components don’t arrive in time. Or, intermediate products may pile up and have to become temporary warehouse inventory because the next production station does not run at the same rhythm.
In engineer-to-order manufacturing of large and complex items, you may be able to boost your throughput up to a certain point by pushing for greater speeds, but those improvements may not translate beyond one production stage. Given the dependencies between sequential manufacturing activities, they may still cause people, machines, or intermediate products to pause and wait.
Document current and desired process flows
What’s most critical in improving manufacturing throughput is the right process flow – from the initial quote, to engineering design, to procurement and purchasing, to production, and on to delivery and lifetime customer services. Only a holistic approach will ensure that all activities sync behind the same goal on the same schedule.
Creating that smooth, fast process flow requires you to review and map all your processes and their intersections, measuring how long steps take. You also need to document who does what, when, and why, and what skills are required. You create a complete as-is map of your manufacturing operation.
You then use your map and documentation to design the state of the operation you want to reach. With all the information in hand, you will be able to identify process improvements that can contribute to manufacturing throughput without causing delays or waste. You see the rhythm of the business today and can revise takt times to improve productivity in a contextual, targeted manner.
Using the right process-modeling tools
Manufacturers use a variety of tools, including business process management (BPM) software to document, model, and improve their processes. Often, these efforts happen when companies review and update their goals, or prepare a strategic software project, like a manufacturing software implementation.
If you move your as-is operation with all its processes to a new technology platform, your manufacturing ERP or other systems will simply replicate the same throughput bottlenecks and inefficiencies that already impact your production. Too many companies have made this mistake, causing them to change course in the middle of an implementation or shortly afterwards. That’s expensive and time-consuming.
Another reason for using a sound process management methodology and a proven BPM software tool is that you need to map and optimize processes that span across your operation, not just the production floor. Such activities as purchasing, distribution, engineering, or post-installation services involve many business groups and touch other companies – customers, suppliers, and subcontractors.
Manufacturing ERP has to follow your process model
In a global economy, strategically aligned process optimization is even more important in improving your manufacturing throughput. When you include engineering, production, and service teams in several countries, the complexity of your interlaced processes can rise substantially. The risk of an unsuccessful ERP deployment that does not facilitate your to-be processes also dramatically increases under those circumstances.
That’s why you might not even want to think about ERP for manufacturing until you have the current and the desired state of your business and its roles and processes defined. Only after that crucial first step does it make sense to think about the manufacturing software, integrations, and data migrations that will be required.
Modern manufacturing ERP in the cloud has made it easier to map technology to your business processes and make adjustments to it as customer requirements and market conditions change.