Finding ways to boost the overall efficiency of workers is constantly on the mind of every manager, regardless of the type of facility they run. Unnecessary downtime will inevitably lead to a loss in production which can have a serious effect on the company's profit margins.
Spending too much time worrying about productivity will add stress to an already stressful position, especially when there are some simple ways to audit the manufacturing process and cut away at the amount of downtime present in the plant.
#1: Use Incentives to Motivate Workers
The natural reaction for many managers is to find a form of punishment when employees are not seen to be as productive as they could be. This type of management is counterproductive and has quickly been falling by the wayside. In many cases, downtime is not something the employees can help, so punishing them will not make things any better.
By setting goals for workers that can be met within a certain time period, managers can give their employees a sense of accomplishment when the goals are hit. By praising the team, it will boost morale and serve to motivate them, which in turn will create a work environment where employees actually want to be as productive as possible. In fact, give employees access to work orders from the backlog, and they'll likely surprise you. Small financial bonuses, like free lunches or gift cards for local businesses, can also be used to incentivize workers so that they will look for ways to decrease downtime on their own.
#2: Keep an Open Line of Communication with Employees
Nobody in the facility knows what steps can be taken to increase workflow better than the men and women on the ground floor. The people working with the equipment and machinery day in and day out know which pieces need to be upgraded and which areas of the facility drag work to a screeching halt.
When there is an open line of communication between management and the employees, workers will be able to relay imperative information to the people who are in a position to facilitate change and make a difference to productivity. When lines of communication are closed off it can be difficult for workers to feel like their input matters and they will leave it up to management to discover these issues on their own, resulting in unwarranted downtime as equipment fails to be upgraded and software doesn't get updated.
#3: Make Sure Equipment is Up to Date
One major cause of downtime in plants and facilities is machinery that does not function as it should. Workflow will be slowed down tremendously when equipment is out of date or does not receive regular maintenance. Some managers will look at the bottom line and make the mistake of cutting back on the amount of scheduled maintenance the equipment receives, and while this may save some money up front it will not pay off in the long run as ineffective machinery slows down and brings worker productivity with it.
In many cases a full replacement of a piece of malfunctioning equipment can be avoided by preemptively retrofitting the machine with upgraded software or a new CPU. By looking at available options for bringing state of the art software into a facility, it can negate the need to replace the hardware and can extend the service life of select equipment by years, saving money while at the same time making work easier for employees.
#4: Conduct an Efficiency Evaluation
In many cases, the production process is impeded by another department or unrelated part of the factory. Facilities operate as well oiled machines, so when one part experiences a problem, it can have lasting effects on another area of the plant. A complete audit of the facility's efficiency will help to weed out the cause of downtime in certain departments and give a clearer picture of what should be done to remedy the situation.
An evaluation of the entire operation will provide managers with the opportunity to speak directly with the operators about what they feel is hindering productivity and what steps can be taken at the managerial level to make sure every employee can work together in harmony.
#5: Take Advantage of New Software Technology
Computerized maintenance management system software has evolved significantly in recent years to simplify the manufacturing and maintenance method. With an influx in new software to compliment CMMS programs, there is an opportunity for managers to find new ways to simplify work order scheduling.
Any facility that is operating without the benefit of top of the line software is missing an opportunity to increase productivity by taking advantage of the automated benefits of these programs. Sockeye, for example, seamlessly integrates with established CMMS software and offers an intuitive interface that was designed for ease of use. Some managers are hesitant to upgrade software because they fear the time it will take to get used to it will be a waste, but this couldn't be further from the truth. New software can be implemented immediately with very little hassle.
“Sockeye is simple, efficient, and effective at getting the right work scheduled at the right time and with the right employees. I'm just astounded at its ease of use, its simplicity," confirmed Mike Williams, Maintenance Information and Process Lead at the Cargill Protein Group in a recent case study. "Sockeye enabled the processes that already existed within our plants. It's very intuitive. We didn't have to teach anybody how to do anything differently. People picked it up very quickly. They’ve taken off with it leaps and bounds."
Slight downtime is not a sure sign that there is something fundamentally wrong with the production process, but it should be used as an opportunity to investigate and identify the cause to see if there is a solution that can be implemented. In many cases a decrease in productivity can be the result of outdated equipment that has not received necessary maintenance and in some cases it can be a culmination of small problems that can be fixed with innovative software designed to counteract those very issues.
Managers do not need to wait until efficiency becomes an issue, these five tips can be used as a good launching point when trying to decrease downtime and increase overall productivity when everything is already running smoothly. Sometimes a preemptive strike is what's required to maintain operational excellence and keep solid relationships and consistent communication with the workers who are responsible, because their investment in their work is what will keep them motivated and productive.