As complex as manufacturing processes have become, the core of profitable manufacturing is actually very simple - you need as much output for as little cost as possible. It’s the easiest math in the world, right? Achieving those goals is another matter, and you will always be in search of ways to increase your throughput and throughput capacity. Sure, you need to find and remove bottlenecks in any component of the process, but everyone knows that’s a given. Solving bottleneck problems can require extremely specific methods. If we want to look at a few general ways to get that capacity up, we need to reconsider some of the basics.
Simulations vs Prototyping
Physical prototyping is a longstanding staple in manufacturing. You want that physical, tangible, testable prototype to hand to a client and ensure that they are satisfied before you proceed with major production. It’s a concept that has saved millions of dollars for manufacturers over the decades.
In the digital age, this concept is becoming less of a necessity. With sufficiently sophisticated modeling, you can ensure that your product meets demand without tooling that physical prototype. It’s really a bonus that it saves resources you would typically invest into the prototype, because the real value is the time and labor saved in the manufacturing process. If you want to improve throughput, getting to mass production faster is clearly beneficial. This also provides the opportunity to make any necessary changes (that can inevitably occur after client feedback) at much less cost.
Using Softeon as an example, we have rolled-out new simulation capabilities in our software that allow us to show prospects and current clients how processes will run in their environments specific to their needs. This gives them the assurance that everything will run smoothly once implementation is complete as well as saving us from change orders in the future that could be costly to everyone. We can be made aware of any issues early and make necessary adjustments – a win-win for all parties involved.
This advice isn’t reinventing the wheel. Instead, it’s taking one more chance to make sure you fully understand the gravity of maintenance. Downtime is easily the biggest killer of productivity and throughput. Even in terms of long-term capacity, downtime is a major variable in the equation. Today, there are more opportunities than ever to track the wear and tear on your systems and schedule preventative maintenance routines that annihilate downtime.
The Internet of Things approach is the most thorough, but even if you can’t justify that expense, you can steal ideas from the concept. The more data and checks you can affordably put into place, the more chances you have to stop catastrophic downtime before it occurs. Investing in preventative maintenance is often the most cost-effective way to improve your throughput.
These two ideas can definitely help your productivity, but you need specific, detailed, customized solutions as well. Thankfully, there are abundant resources that can help you hunt for and eliminate those costly bottlenecks.