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How to Streamline Manufacturing Operations Management

Thanks to technological advancement in the past century, today’s consumers have greater demands compared to a few decades ago. They want to purchase the best product at competitive prices — and they want it now.

In production, It’s the operations manager’s job to streamline manufacturing operation management to meet these increasingly demanding customer expectations. 

Contrary to what most people believe, a streamlined manufacturing production line doesn’t necessarily mean using next-level automation and high-performance equipment. It can honestly be as simple as applying lean manufacturing to the production line to eliminate waste.  Think something along the lines of a manufacturing execution software like Prodsmart, allowing you to easily track if things are going out on time and quality standards are met. This app can ensure that any manufacturing team can streamline operations by ensuring your business keeps up with customer demands in an efficient and profitable manner. 

The main concept behind lean production is to constantly identify and eliminate waste—any processes or activities that don’t add value to the end consumer.

These value-added activities can be defined as manufacturing processes that alter the function, fit, or form of a component, i.e., add value to the final product and which end consumers are willing to pay for.

Therefore, the key to streamlining manufacturing operations management hinges on a company’s ability to pinpoint and eliminate — or minimize — wasteful activities in the production process. 

What is the Importance of Streamlining Manufacturing Operations?

No two companies are identical, and the same applies to their manufacturing: each company has its own complicated multi-step production process. For a company to maximize profits, improve quality, and stay competitive, it needs to streamline manufacturing operations and reduce production time. 

Over the past couple of years, the importance of streamlining manufacturing operations management and eliminating waste has become more apparent. Some of the main benefits that streamlined companies enjoy are having a better quality, minimal waste, faster production times, and reduced costs. 

A culture of continuous improvement drives lean manufacturing, with the goal being the improvement of the end consumer’s experience. Streamlining manufacturing operations management isn’t about cutting corners or sacrificing quality, but empowering employees to realize the importance of each stage. 

Each employees’ role in the operation is made even clearer with MES like Prodsmart. Our app allows production teams to visualize workflows, manage employee scheduling, track performance, and even generate production reports in real-time. 

10 Definitive steps to streamlining manufacturing operations management

1. Select an underperforming product line as the basis for a pilot to define a manufacturing operations framework

One of the best places to start when streamlining operations is to put underperforming product lines under the microscope. These products typically have a variety of problems, from fulfillment to quality to production scheduling to sales to product awareness, etc. 

That said, an underperforming product line provides a good starting point for rooting out factors that may help in turning it around. Most of the time, we focus on what we can directly control, things like storage space, the factory or plant, the production environment, etc. 

However, it’s important to step outside the box and examine not just the product but its production lifecycle as well. One of the main causes of operational inefficiencies is poor production line management; products managed inconsistently, a product lifecycle isn’t factored in, and management is done in a vacuum. 

2. Define a common set of metrics and KPIs that can scale across all manufacturing operations and create a useful dashboard

While it might be tempting to track dozens of key performance indicators or KPIs and metrics, be sure to resist the urge. Instead, narrow in those that are most relevant in improving the efficiency of manufacturing operations. 

Defining effective metrics and KPIs to streamline manufacturing operations management is rather easy when it’s clear what to and what not to track. Not all pieces of information will be useful in helping meet the company’s objectives and goals.

One way of doing this is developing a roadmap featuring, the most essential, KPI’s and metrics that will need to be included, once there are processes and systems in place to aggregate data from the various data points. 

Then all of the data can be visualized in a dashboard showing the interdependencies of these metrics and KPIs in meeting these goals. 

3. Define how the MES will capture machine-level data including equipment utilization and key process parameters

A manufacturing Execution System or MES is used to streamline manufacturing operations management and ensure that processes and activities are efficiently executed to maximize output. The main objective of this step is data collection at the machine-level to calculate metrics and KPIs, such as OEE. 

The OEE, or overall equipment effectiveness, is a measure of the effectiveness of running a piece of equipment on a specified schedule. As a performance indicator, OEE gives companies an overview of how their manufacturing activities and processes are working. 

Additionally, process parameters at the ground level need to be monitored and tracked at the plant or work level. To do this, it’s essential to track and aggregate precise and accurate data on the entire product lifecycle in real-time, and that’s where the MES comes in. 

An MES is an application that tracks, monitors, and controls all the activities on the factory floor. Prodsmart also goes a step further, offering real-time data and production reports that allows production teams to fully understand what needs to be improved or changed to better meet demand. 

4. For purposes of the pilot, enable older machines with PLCs and add-on sensors

woman with forklift in warehouse

During the initial stages of a pilot, manufacturing operation managers typically augment older machines with sensors and PLC controllers to visualize the entire production process. Sensors provide data, which may or may not be useful when analyzed on a piece of equipment over a specified timeframe. 

They’re used to monitor specific things like the vibration of a machine, which can then be used to tell a technician if the machine is on or not. PLCs, on the other hand, can aggregate large data points, which, when combined with sensor data, provides a clearer picture into the workings of a machine. 

When combined, the two provide a hands-off approach of collecting and analyzing data—applicable to any machine, thereby improving the efficiency of process monitoring. 

They also offer plenty of flexibility and let operation managers define parameters and performance indicators for every component or configuration. 

5. Define and test all the system integration links necessary to capture the metrics and KPIs needed for the dashboard

The next step is to develop and test an integration system that connects all the data points into one centralized dashboard that transmits data in real-time. The next thing to do is transform the dashboard into a web-based application accessible over the intranet to cross-functional department teams. 

Transforming the dashboard into a web-based application accessible over the intranet is one of the best ways of streamlining manufacturing operations management because it allows live performance monitoring and data access from any internet-enabled device no matter the location. 

What’s more, it also makes it possible to create a database that stores items based on a variety of parameters such as machine configuration, part number, batch number, etc. which makes it easy to drill down on information. 

It would also be wise to continuously improve the systems, i.e., think of future KPIs and metrics to add to the dashboard, which includes everything from fulfillment to corrective or preventive action or CAPA to inbound inspection. 

Related: What is Lean Manufacturing?

6. Gain senior management support by having a VP or C-level executive lead the cross-functional team responsible for fine-tuning the manufacturing operations strategy

Before implementing any organization-wide changes, it’s necessary to get C-level executives or even the VP on board to bypass any red tape in the way of progress. Supervisors or managers play a vital role in streamlining manufacturing operations management because of their unique relationship with workers. 

While there’s no denying the importance of engaging workers on every level of the company’s ladder, especially early on, every successful change initiative such as a strategy for streamlining manufacturing operations management starts by having a committed executive backed by the CEO leading the team. 

Effective leaders recognize that the support they provide is vital to the success of the initiative and is committed to implementing change within the span of their influence. They play a variety of roles from being the communicator to an instructor to liaison to advocate etc. 

7. Cross-functional team members need to provide data on how their specific areas are working to improve the pilot products’ performance at every meeting

Before Manufacturing 4.0, a lot of managers were heavily dependent on intuition and experience to make decisions. While the value experience brings to the table must never be downplayed, relying on intuition and experience over data never ends well. 

The modern manufacturing industry demands that decisions are made based on accurate data delivered on a timely basis, especially where streamlining manufacturing operations management is concerned. 

Each team member of the dream team has a specific role to play. The focus of the sales and marketing team is to provide a clear picture of the entire pipeline, along with any other special promotions or incentives. 

Finance, on the other hand, can provide an overview and insights into gross margins and how they were affected by the change in production strategy.

8. Use pilot data to begin a company-wide Manufacturing Intelligence strategy

One of the pillars of a great manufacturing operations management strategy is having access to accurate and precise real-time data. Once the MES starts outputting data constantly, it’s time to move past the basics and incorporate intelligent data-driven strategies into operations management. 

Advanced analytics can be used by operation managers to process historical data, pinpoint major patterns, and the interrelationship between discrete inputs and process steps. Advanced Analytics refers to applying statistical and other mathematical tools to analyze and optimize practices.

They can, therefore, identify factors that have the greatest impact on yield and optimize operations around them. A majority of global manufacturers in a variety of industries rely on real-time factory-floor data to make major decisions.

Additionally, by applying predictive analytics capabilities to the stored data, companies will be able to properly interpret and give recommendations based on accurate and precise data, which is invaluable in streamlining manufacturing operations management.   

9. Start planning for greater integration between ERP and MES to provide financial insights into manufacturing operations

The next step is to integrate the MES and ERP systems, which better translates whatever is happening on the factory floor into financial reports making it easy for c-level executives to drive results.

By integrating MES and accounting, operation managers will be able to get real-time insights into the financial status of the company, which can then be used to direct other strategies for optimizing performance.

Integrating ERP systems with MES also allows manufacturers to simulate production orders, among other resource requirements.

Having real-time data on the availability of resources across the entire chain of supply helps streamline manufacturing operations management by eliminating unnecessary production delays and interruptions. 

Integrating accounting and production systems, together with real-time data exchange, helps improve the overall operational efficiency of the company and allows it to adapt to satisfy customer expectations and meet their demands quickly. 

10.  Conclude the pilot and define a timeline for the company-wide launch of a manufacturing operations strategy based on the insights gained

The last step of streamlining manufacturing operations management is applying the insights learned from the pilot data, under the leadership of a senior executive to the whole organization. Data-driven strategies are the key to staying competitive and differentiating the company from the competition. 

However, the success of the company hinges on its ability to definitively pinpoint, manipulate and aggregate a variety of sources as well as its capacity to develop highly advanced analytical models that are capable of simulating and predicting the outcome. 

Additionally, they need to have the power and backing from c-level executives to change the organization so that the analytical models and data collected and analyzed, can be used to make better decisions. Having completed the pilot, applying the strategy to other plants should go on without a hitch. 

Conclusion

While most manufacturers are taking the necessary steps to apply data-driven strategies to their production line, a majority of them have found it difficult to maximize their ROI. 

However, by enhancing machine to machine communication and sharing organization-wide data, manufacturers will be in a unique position to improve efficiency, maximize profits, improve quality and foster innovation and ultimately streamline manufacturing operations management. 

Ready to go paperless and streamline your manufacturing operations with ease? Contact Prodsmart today to find out how our MES can make that happen. 

Related: Calculating Total Manufacturing Cost: What You Need to Know

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