Time is money, right? So, when it comes to running a successful fabrication business, productivity is extremely important.
There are several ways to increase productivity on the floor by removing obstacles and reorganising work methods without sacrificing quality and safety. In fact, lifting productivity comes down to creating a skilled workforce while also adopting new technologies that safely increase production.
Regularly Measure your Forecast vs Actuals
Do you know what the best type of forecast is? An accurate one. The next best is one that you check your actuals against, to make sure you’re on target for next time. If you determine labour and other key components using a forecast, it’s only going to be as useful as the forecast itself. This is a performance indicator that you should measure regularly and the closer you get to actuals the more efficient you will be, and the more you’ll increase productivity.
Run Short, Regular Production Meetings Keep You On Track
If you want to keep your team on track, then short (ten minutes or less) production meetings will help you stay ahead of the curve. This is the team’s opportunity to highlight issues that may contribute to productivity issues. A meeting is a perfect chance to brainstorm solutions as a team and ensure problems are dealt with before they have a chance to spiral.
Focus on Continuous Improvement
Take a look at your established process and consider the ways you can incrementally improve upon it. An individual change might not seem to impact your productivity much. However, the aggregate of the many things you tweak to improve the process will ensure significant improvements to productivity in fabrication. An easy way to think about it is that if you improve 1 thing each week by 1%, each year you’ll increase productivity by 68%! That’s a serious gain – and it’s been scientifically proven, time and time again.
Bottlenecks are extremely common in the manufacturing & fabrication process, but they don’t have to be. These congestions come from several issues and overwhelm production in all cases.
Short-Term: Short-term bottlenecks are usually a result of winning too much work (Yay!), or losing a staff member that needs to be replaced (Boo!). You can often address this by adding overtime hours for your staff, hiring a casual or temporary person to help you out, or even subcontracting some of your work to another company that you trust.
Long-Term: If your bottlenecks are more long term, you’ve got more of a systemic issue. Could it be that you’ve got too much work on for your team, do they need more training, is your shop too small for the work? We can break these long term bottlenecks into two distinct categories.
Staff Performance Issues
This is when your bottleneck issue is down to a person – employee, supplier, contractor, vendor, or any person involved in the manufacturing side of the process. Review how long each task should take versus how long it does take, and then figure out WHY! It’s not as simple as blaming someone, you’ve got to try and address the problem. Key issues here can be around training the person to better complete the work, or even just communicating your expectations on the time to complete the work! Little things can make an enormous difference.
When we talk about system issues, we’re not just talking about your software (although that obviously plays a role). We’re talking about the entire system of work that you’ve got setup in your workshop. It could be that you’re constantly winning work that your equipment isn’t quite right to handle, and so it’s taking much longer than expected. If that’s the case, it’s time to look at investing in the right equipment to ensure that you can keep up with the business you’re winning!
It could also be communication – if your staff are always waiting for instructions because they’re not quite sure what/when/how something should be done, then you need to focus on improving that.
Lastly, it could simply be that your floorplan is requiring people to move around WAY too much. We’ve had clients actually measure this, and find that they were walking 5km a day around the workshop, just to move between stations! At a brisk 8mins per kilometre, that’s 40 minutes a day being lost to WALKING! If you’ve got even 10 staff, that adds up to over 1700 hours a year in lost productivity! That’s insane!
Automate Time-Wasting / Repetitive Tasks
You might not have the budget to automate everything, but if you automate where possible you’re helping to future-proof your business while you increase productivity. If you’re still writing quotes, invoices, and purchase orders down on paper, or whiteboards – it’s time to STOP doing that, and get yourself a system. Automation and systematisation of these processes reduce error rates while increasing speed and quality, making your business a more productive business.
Fundamentally, everything stems from how well you train and educate your employees and the tools you provide them to do the job. Ensure that you hold training sessions for everyone when new systems, processes, and/or equipment is introduced, and constantly try and improve their skills, to improve your business. When everyone under your business roof understands their role, the policies, and the mission of the workplace, then your facility will run smoothly.