Pursuing greater efficiencies is known to be good for any business, this is particularly true for manufacturers that do work on a subcontract basis. It has as its primary goal the delivery of substantially higher outputs by investing the same or fewer resources. Greater subcontract manufacturing efficiency always offers a wide range of benefits over the status quo.
Overall, more efficient processes can help reduce manufacturing costs, improve performance and reduce environmental impacts related to production. All of these general benefits lead to additional gains down the road, from higher sales and quality to a strengthened company image and reputation.
Below, listed eight potential ways to improve subcontract manufacturing efficiency without having to incur large investments:
Quantify the Operation
It is necessary to be very clear about manufacturing costs. These are derived from the sum of the value of the man-hours required in all operations and processes. Material costs are obvious, but work hours, equipment wear and tear, and obsolescence need to be considered to control and quantify the operation. By assigning numbers to each aspect of manufacturing, it will be much easier to see which areas need immediate attention to gain greater subcontract manufacturing efficiency.
Targeting Material Waste
Waste is a broad term and can refer to materials, energy, labor hours, or space. One of the largest and most expensive types of waste that occurs is in the use of materials. Here are some ideas that can be implemented to reduce it:
- Recycle leftovers and factory returns. Even if you can’t use the recycled material yourself, you can sell it to a factory that can. Doing this can turn the waste into profit.
- Optimize processes to use all available material. Every waste product that takes the form of discarded material represents an opportunity to achieve greater subcontract manufacturing efficiency.
- Closely check the dispatch department. Packaging materials are inexpensive compared to other manufacturing supplies, but their costs add up. Making product packaging more efficient generally presents significant improvement opportunities.
There is no substitute for practical training in the real world. It is extremely important to train manufacturing workers in multiple processes and to make sure that they are both flexible and versatile. In this way, team members can help each other solve problems, act as substitutes, and provide relief during repetitive tasks. Additionally, if everyone in the factory has a good understanding of the entire process from start to finish, they will better understand their roles and importance within the organization as a whole.
Order, cleanliness and discipline are the key to an efficient workspace. Take a look on the shop floor. Is it easy to find the hand tools? Are waste products piling up in a corner? All tools, parts, materials and instructions must have a home, and each employee must know where that home is: a place for everything and everything in its place creates an environment of greater subcontract manufacturing efficiency.
Everyone has their own approach to things, but in the world of manufacturing, there isn’t much room for individuality. Even the simplest tasks should be standardized to maximize efficiency and leave complete clarity on how things should be done.
Start by making a checklist and post it in each workspace. Then make sure all employees working in that area follow the checklist. This simple act can reduce downtime and improve overall manufactured product quality. In work instructions, include critical aspects for quality (CTQs), work in standard process (WISP), the ideal tool for the operation, and other details of the process.
Implement Cellular Manufacturing to Optimize Subcontract Manufacturing Efficiency
The manufacturing cell is a method that can be employed to improve efficiency in subcontract manufacturing by decreasing the need for die changes. Like processes can be configured in a group with a similar distribution which reduces movement and makes a rolling natural line. The methodology involves dividing the workspaces into cells and assigning each cell a standardized set of tasks.
This method also requires manufacturers to view the overall manufacturing process as a series of separate steps. This allows those involved in the production process to focus on opportunities to reduce waste. It also makes it much easier to quantify each part of an individual process. This is possibly the costliest method of achieving greater subcontract manufacturing efficiency.
Proactively Manage Equipment Failures
We all know that a toothbrush is much cheaper than a root canal treatment, but not everyone brings this wisdom to manufacturing. Preventive maintenance is the practice of performing maintenance tasks based on the schedule or number of wear cycles for a particular piece of equipment. The idea is to do maintenance before it is needed due to damage or downtime, but not so often that it interferes with other tasks or causes costs to skyrocket. Manufacturers should decide on the correct schedule by consulting tool manufacturers and by considering the time between past failures.
Engage Your Employees
If your process is plagued with downtime, look to your employees for answers. They are the experts. It stands to reason that the person responsible for doing a job may have some ideas to make the process more efficient. On the other hand, it is easy for executives and managers, who are used to looking at the big picture, to miss smaller opportunities for improvement. It is important to open communication channels so that employees can communicate effectively to their managers, whenever they have suggestions, comments, or complaints.