Manufacturers face challenging times. After more than a decade of booming economic growth, some are pointing to a potential recession. The daily chatter on tariffs can impact the cost of raw materials and price of goods and services in the U.S. and abroad.
While many issues are out of the control of individual manufacturers, industrial efficiency is not.
Among the priorities: How and when raw materials are ordered, delivered and converted into product. How and when energy is consumed. How and when plant operations are changed to make a different product. All these elements and more are in the manufacturer’s direct control and can be dramatically modified to increase efficiency. A more efficient facility is a more profitable facility.
For example, manufacturers like Westrock use Zira software to monitor the efficiency of compressed air to determine which facilities are the most efficient and which ones need improvement. Pepsi uses Zira for materials management and to automate the procurement process.
Here are five things that all manufacturers need to do to increase industrial efficiency:
Know what you have, and what you don’t. Too many manufacturers take this for granted. It is common for manufacturing plants to be 40, 50 or 60 years old. Many facilities have been repurposed to build products different than what they were initially designed to make. Once a thorough physical inventory of all plant assets is complete, the next step is to complete a gap analysis to understand if additional assets are required. Knowing the baseline metrics for all plant assets affords the opportunity to start with the right project to increase efficiency. Knowing precisely what you have, what you need, and where the gaps are will help identify the projects that can have the most significant impact.
Choose the right technology. This may seem simple, but minor details can create a significant impact. The sensors already in place provided the baseline metrics. Create a shopping list of other tech required to close the gaps identified in the first step. Use your list to compare sensors and other components, including details on pricing and availability. Since every facility is different, they all require different components, sensors, and software. Shop around.
Start small. Increasing manufacturing efficiency is not a one-time process. It has a starting point, but rather than a strict endpoint, the process should move up like a spiral. Once initial, smaller projects generate results, incorporate those results back into the process to make additional modifications that will bring even greater performance improvements.
Mitigate decision fatigue. With baseline metrics in place, and initial efficiency projects generating results, determining the next efficiency challenge to tackle should be easy. The data will tell you.
Create and automate escalation models to analyze the data to understand the efficiency impact of different projects. With all the changing variables in the manufacturing process, it can be easy to think you already know the answer. Create the models that incorporate all the data and let that data speak for itself.
Be more connected. You’ve already started connecting sensors. Now’s the time to connect everything else. The greatest success will come when everyone is on the front line. Collaborate across teams, develop efficiency targets, and align the entire organization to those targets.
When problems arise, and goals aren’t met, use these connections to discover why.