Ultimately, the company improved output by more than 50 percent and reduced waste by 80 percent. Those results show how worthwhile it can be to focus on employees when improving processes.

4. Explore Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) involves using software to automate manual tasks and get rid of substantial amounts of repetition for employees. Statistics projected that worldwide spending on RPA would reach $898 million in 2018, representing tremendous growth over the 2017 expenditures totaling $542 million.

Some manufacturing-related tasks that are typically a good fit for RPA include purchase order processing, transportation management and regulatory compliance. Robots and cobots can also be installed on factory floors to aid workers in completing their tasks faster than before the equipment existed.

Atria produces vegetarian and gourmet food and depends on cobots to assist with packaging and palletizing processes. Switching to different packaging applications for various types of food took six hours without using cobots but was reduced to only 20 minutes when depending on those machines.

Since there are so many ways to apply RPA in a manufacturing plant, it’s necessary to thoroughly investigate all the possibilities before choosing one. After going through that stage, it should become evident which options are most appropriate. RPA is particularly useful for improving error-prone processes.

5. Develop a Schedule and Standards for Routine Maintenance

Even the most efficient processes fall short when machinery breaks down due to insufficient maintenance procedures. That’s why it’s crucial to view equipment maintenance as an integral part of process efficiency.

Begin by planning a schedule of routine checks for each piece of equipment. Next, set standards regarding the conditions that may necessitate more immediate inspections. For example, if team members notice unusual wear patterns, abnormal levels of tension or other strange characteristics of a machine’s components several times in a short period, it’s probably time to be proactive and investigate further.

Another way to connect process efficiency to routine maintenance is to ensure all team members know the correct ways to report problems. They need to know which channels to go through to notify superiors of suspicious findings, how to submit reports and other necessities. Bringing clarity to each step helps prevent mistakes and enforce uniformity.

Here are some basic steps to follow when bringing uniformity to the equipment maintenance process:

  1. Create a template that includes all the necessary steps for maintenance, broken down by the piece of machinery or type of machine (Cooling, assembly, etc.).
  2. Indicate how often to perform each maintenance check (daily, weekly, annually, etc.).
  3. Create a row or area where a person can sign or initial and provide a date for each maintenance check performed.
  4. Include a section at the bottom of the maintenance record that indicates a contact name or number that the person performing the check should use if they notice anything unusual about the equipment.
Process improvement brings the favorable outcomes.

6. Change the Factory Floor Layout to Cut Out Unnecessary Movement

Excessive movement by employees in a manufacturing plant can hinder productivity and cause other disruptions. Consider strategically rearranging the factory floor layout so it allows people to do their jobs with limited amounts of movement. Get started by removing unused tools from the area and setting up the ones employees need in ways that make sense for the jobs they perform.

See if there are ways to shorten the path of travel by adjusting the placement of the equipment in instances where employees must move components between machines. In 2016, Honda tried an innovative upgrade to the traditional assembly line layout with its assembly revolution cell (ARC) line. It has a moving conveyor holding a vehicle and a complete set of parts laid out in a sequence. Four assemblers then step onto a platform and ride around a U-shaped cell to put the car together. Each employee handles several tasks along the assembly line, thereby broadening the assortment of responsibilities dealt with by each person. Honda says this setup increases the assembly line efficiency by 10 percent and reduces material handling by the same amount.

Stay Dedicated and Anticipate Positive Results

These suggestions won’t cause overnight improvements, but they’re worth trying as part of a longstanding commitment to enhancing process efficiency.

No matter which ones you go with, don’t forget to seek feedback along the way.

Process improvement is something manufacturers often don’t know how much they need until they get started and notice the favorable outcomes. The tips here offer information to stimulate success, especially when people stay positive and think about the advantages of higher efficiency within their facilities. Flexibility and a willingness to adapt will help entities thrive.

For more news on robotics, AI and more, visit the Robotics & AI Channel.