Technological innovations in industrial processes are creating an abundance of opportunities to streamline the production floor. We’re taking a look at 5 ways to increase productivity across a range of factory and warehouse setups, and even manufacturing at large.

1. Efficiency as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.0

The dawn of ‘Industry 4.0’ is upon us. Originating in Germany as “Industrie 4.0”, it encapsulates ideas and technologies that allow factory machinery to exchange data and make decisions concerning production and maintenance independently of people. Technology consulting firm CapGemini believe that this will (conservatively) add $500 billion in value to the global economy. The lion’s share of that increase is thanks to a 27% increase in the efficiency of manufacturing processes created by factory machines communicating via IoT, Artificial Intelligence, and all of the other futuristic acronyms we’ve come to know and love/fear.

 

The face of your new marketing intern.

 

So what is it?An example is a machine that will be able to predict the failure of a component and trigger maintenance processes autonomously. Another is that you could tell the first machine in a production line to make a certain product, and the rest of the line will automatically re-calibrate to accommodate the process, as demonstrated by SAP at Hannover Messe in 2014.

Admittedly, this isn’t a productivity hack so much as it is an absolute overhaul of almost everything the world knows about manufacturing. Some of the systems and machines required to implement this ideology aren’t 100% ready just yet, and any changes made to factories today should be made with future innovations in mind (which is one of the biggest drawbacks at the moment) but there is a sense of inevitability about Industry 4.0, and the scale of its impact means that it must be included on this list.

2. Invest in Maintenance (and schedule it properly)

There is a well known saying, “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.” Which is often credited to the great Andrew Carnegie’s mother, and we all know how that turned out.

The thinking is that by showing prudence with the finer details in life, that the bigger picture takes care of itself as a result. The same can be said of the relationship between manufacturing and maintenance. In fact, there is a link between the costs associated with downtime and budget invested into preventative measures, which can be reviewed in this study conducted by the University of Chile. Essentially, money spent up front taking care of maintenance protocols is money well spent.

And there’s more to it – there are legal requirements to stick with maintenance schedules, especially where Joe public are involved. Think about the shutters on the front of your warehouse – is there a car park anywhere nearby that the public will use to visit the warehouse? If so, you are required by law to have it serviced annually. HSE will no doubt have you clued up on the obvious ongoing things like working at height, noise levels, and vibration, but keeping an eye on the less obvious things will pay dividends when the inspector turns up.

All in all, if you make prudent investments in the maintenance of your machinery, and take special effort to make sure you’re ticking all the boxes, you can expect to enjoy a reduction in cost, and an increase in efficiency and productivity and a decrease in unexpected downtime. You could even say that staying on top of maintenance will keep your factory running like a well-oiled machine.

 

Oh my god did he just say that.

3. Kill Queue Time Fast, and for Free

 

One of the most commonly recurring problems we help solve at UK Roller Shutters comes from customers who own storage warehouses. They often report a bottleneck in their routes which creates a large increase in queue time for staff and inventory. A variety of reasons exist to keep certain areas of warehouses separate from others, including hygiene, temperature, and sometimes just security, and until relatively recently, factory owners had no choice but to accept the bottlenecks that were created as a result.

As an example, an average 3 metre high roller shutter door takes up to 40 seconds to open fully from the time a key switch is turned, which may not sound like a lot, but it adds up quickly. In an area that 20 staff members pass through once per hour during a 10 hour working day, this adds up to an annual 533 hours of time lost waiting for a door to open. It comes as no surprise then, that this kind of arrangement can seriously hinder the productivity of any storage area.

 

40 seconds is a long time in factory time.

 

The solution is as simple as you’d imagine – doors that open quicker, and in time for whoever is passing through to do so without stopping. Using a fast action PVC door not only ensures a complete seal (which is great for insulation and hygiene), but in the previous example, it reduces the wait time from 533 hours down to 0 hours. There is no wait time whatsoever. This is due to proximity sensors and radar motion sensors that are used to open the door in time for the forklift or packer to pass through without stopping.

Not only do the doors pay for themselves in man-hours gained, but they are actually able to be written off as a business expenditure against your company tax bill. That is a 0 costmaking our Rapid Roll PVC Door the highest-impact, and best value hack on this list.

 

4. Educate Employees (The Easy Way)

Technological advancements are only as good as the people at the helm. We only need to imagine our less computer-literate family members attempting to send an email on their iPhone to realise the importance of being well versed in the technology at our disposal.

 

Nigerian royalty just made this man a millionaire.

 

Whether your entire factory is using new blockchain-based inventory management technologies, or if it’s a new cutting module on one production line, the benefits of the upgrades are invariably hampered (or lost entirely) in the hands of someone who does not know the best practises.

As Benjamin Franklin once said “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” and he wasn’t wrong. The Association for Talent Development released a study showing that companies with comprehensive training programs can expect an income 218% higher per staff member than those without. This translates to a 24% higher profit margin than those who don’t spend as much on training.

These results are driven by increased productivity, which comes as a result of the increased skill levels provided by the additional staff development. This makes training an excellent way to unlock productivity potential. A study conducted on the quality of the workforce by the National Center showed that investment in workforce training vs. a proportionally matching increase in the value of equipment favoured the workforce every single time. There is an increase in productivity of 8.4% for training when a 10% increase in budget is applied, which trumps the paltry 3.4% improvement when the same budget increase is applied to equipment upgrades.

It’s not just the increase in skills either – training offers a unique means of increasing staff engagement throughout the hierarchy. Staff engagement defined as the emotional commitment that employees feel for their companies and the work they do, as well as their synergy with the company goals. An alignment of visions is good for everybody; a Dale Carnegie study from 2013 showed that when compared to less engaged employees, the more engaged counterparts outperform them by 202%.

 

Bold Italics, for when the stats gets really intense.

 

It is difficult to overstate the benefits of training, but how can it be delivered easily and efficiently? Systems like Citation can deliver staff training remotely and automatically, while also serving as a HR and legislation compliance platform. Alternatively, platforms like Udemy offer more specialised courses via an on-demand service that your employees can take advantage of as and when is best for your business.

 

5. Take your organisation to the next level

 

We all know the feeling, you walk into the room where you know you left the thing last time you used it, but it’s not there. You find it, then go and look for the stuff you need to use the thing, and someone has moved it. Then you ask someone where they moved the stuff, and it’s all the way on the other side of the place now. Wow, time wasted in a big way.

 

I know it’s in here somewhere.

This happens every single day on your factory floor, and the man hours (and therefore money) wasted on things not being in the best place is staggering. Andy Jankowski surmised on the benefits of an organised warehouse, and that keeping a clean and accurate warehouse environment paid off where it counts – on the company bottom line.

This is due to easy location of any given object and any time, which makes for a quicker moving logistical operation, and therefore more effective staff. By doing simple things like grouping similar items together (finding one type of self-tapping screw should mean being in the place where they all are, as an example), labelling everything clearly, and making sure packaging and shipping areas are organised in a workflow-centric manner, you are ensuring your staff can complete more tasks by virtue of the fact that everything is where it should be.

Stock take and inventory management neither be a day-long pain either. With inventory management software options available such as Tagset.io, Slingshot, and SAP, stock management and control can be managed easily and centrally, just as soon as you’ve put everything in its right place.

To find out more about shutters for needs, call UK Roller Shutters today on+44 (0) 1384 221743 or contact us here.