What is throughput in manufacturing?
Throughput is the rate at which manufacturing operations produce goods or services. Manufacturing throughput is a metric (or KPI) that is measured by the number of units produced per time unit. For example, if your company produces 1,000 units in one hour, its throughput would be 1,000 units per hour.
Throughput is often used to measure operational excellence. To ensure operational excellence, you must maximize the value of every activity performed within your company's operations by alleviating waste, reducing equipment downtime, avoiding disruptions, and increasing supply chain efficiency. Operational excellence is also largely influenced by the workforce; the more skilled and motivated, the better the throughput rate. That’s one of the reasons why employee training is so important.
What are the main advantages of an effective throughput for a manufacturing company?
Manufacturing companies with a good throughput enjoy the following benefits:
The ability to provide more products to customers, increasing company revenue.
Reduced costs due to higher efficiency and lesser waste.
Improved processes and labor efficiency, resulting in increased production and cost savings.
The 11 best strategies to increase throughput in manufacturing
Apply the following time-tested tips to enhance your company's throughput:
1. Understand the limits of your plant/operations
Establishing your operational limits will help you maximize throughput. Probe the limitations of your employees, equipment, and processes. For instance:
Understand how much work each step in your process can handle at once. If a step has a high operating limit, add more resources to increase throughput. If it has a low operating limit, find another cost-effective approach to increase overall productivity.
Determine the modern technologies and automation that could replace existing ones when they become obsolete. Remember, technology will keep evolving, so the current trends might be short-lived.
2. Increase productivity based on demand fluctuations
Increasing productivity based on demand fluctuations helps you avoid inventory costs and reduce the amount of money tied up in unsold goods. To align your productivity with the prevailing demand;
Use the right resources. Adopt flexible processes and align them to demand fluctuations for high output.
Increase productivity by improving the management skills of your supervisors. By reducing the variance rate at the point of execution, you will directly improve your output and your employee’s motivation which will also improve productivity.
3. Reduce lead time
Lead time is the duration it takes to move a product from one stage to the next. You can reduce lead time by hastening processing, inventory handling, and transportation.
To achieve optimal throughput, understand the period each step in your production process takes and pinpoint areas that need improvement.
4. Coach your frontline managers
The value of coaching your front-line managers is a no-brainer that is too often overlooked.
Coaching your front-line managers and giving them the proper training will help them adopt a proactive management style through Gemba Walks and Active Supervision Tours. They’ll spend less time in their office waiting passively for problems to happen and more time on the shopfloor actively preventing potential issues, remedying inefficiencies, capturing variances, putting action plans in place, and implementing continuous improvement methods.
Coaching front-line managers are one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to rapidly increase productivity.
Yves Lebrasseur, Senior Expert - Technical Processes, Proaction International
Coaching teaches them to be better managers, helping them effectively manage their teams with improved communication and employee management. Effective coaching gets the best out of everyone onboard, increasing manufacturing throughput AND employee engagement.
5. Ensure the right people work in the right roles
Coaching front-line managers is also essential to help leverage existing workforce talent. A manufacturing team is only as strong as its members. Your throughput will soar when you have the right personnel in the right roles, this applies to both managers and employees. But with poor staffing practices, your throughput will suffer.
Consider this: if an employee isn't engaged or motivated to do their job well, they won't contribute effectively toward increasing your company's production capacity. In parallel, if someone doesn't have the skills needed for their role, or worse yet, has bad habits or a bad attitude, they'll tank your efforts to improve throughput at work!
Ensure everyone knows their responsibilities before assigning tasks to keep your workforce engaged and motivated. Advisably, offer them ongoing training opportunities to improve their skills. Also, motivate individuals through positive reinforcement and avoid overworking them.
South Shore Furniture is a good example of a manufacturer that has succeeded in creating a leadership culture to ensure agile yet creative production.
6. Invest in process improvement tools
Process improvement tools help you identify areas for improvement in your company's processes, increasing productivity and efficiency.
Invest in process improvement tools like Lean Six Sigma.
Lean Six Sigma comprises a set of tools and techniques used to advance manufacturing efficiency. It involves using statistical methods to identify problem areas, eliminate bottlenecks, decrease waste, cut cycle time, increase uptime, improve changeover time, reduce rejection rate (parts rejection), and improve quality.
You might find it fitting to use Lean Six Sigma alongside other processes like Kaizen (continuous improvement) or TQM (Total Quality Management).
7. Implement a Daily Management System
A DMS gives teams the tools they need to better organize operational control and install standardized and sustainable management processes in a manufacturing context. By digitizing management, the DMS is a major asset to:
· Optimize the work of leaders on the production floor space when they need to evaluate the work of their teams;
· Develop the leadership of each manager;
· Reach operational excellence and throughput goals;
· Increase productivity;
· Establish better internal communication within the company.
For example, our multi-platform tool UTrakk DMeS tool guides the manager in his role throughout the day. In the same way as a dashboard, it provides an overview of priorities, activities, actions, management, and performance data.
Discover how the PH Tech factory in Lévis has called upon UTrakk technology to increase its production capacity by improving the productivity of its teams.
8. Shift from batch to a continuous flow
Batch manufacturing involves making parts by performing all operations in sequence. The main disadvantage of batch manufacturing is that it requires more time than continuous flow, producing parts as soon as needed.
Continuous flow is a production system where workpieces move through an assembly line without stopping until they reach completion. In continuous flow manufacturing, operators are not required to stop working on one part and wait for another; instead, they can perform all necessary processes on one unit at once before moving to the next stage.
The main advantage of continuous flow manufacturing is the ability to produce parts faster than batch methods. Enhanced production saves money on inventory costs and reduces waste since manufacturers don't have to throw away partially finished products.
9. Find ways to reduce inventory levels
Reducing inventory levels is a sure way to escalate manufacturing throughput. To stay on top of your inventory;
Reduce inventory costs: The less money tied up in inventory, the better. By reducing inventory levels, you can cut storage costs and the time needed to replenish them. This move will also help you fund other tasks or projects.
Reduce space needed for storage: A lesser storage space will cut your operation costs, amplify operational efficiency, and help you offer a better customer experience.
10. Minimize waste by investigating quality control processes and using quality control software
Quality control is an integral part of manufacturing, and it's also one you can improve by reducing waste.
A proven-to-work way to lessen waste is by investigating your quality control processes. For the best results, use software tailored to analyze data from these investigations to identify potential problems or areas where you could improve workflow efficiency.
11. Adopt the work cell design
Adopting and optimizing work cell layouts is a powerful way to increase throughput.
A work cell is a group of people and machines that perform a series of activities in sequence, often with one person performing many tasks simultaneously. Work cells are usually arranged in a line or "production line." Here, work is passed from one workstation to another along this production line until it reaches its final destination.
Leveraging work cells will help you maximize operational efficiency, eradicate waste and bottlenecks, minimize human error, and amp up productivity by increasing the utilization rate of assets within them.
Over to you…
Increasing manufacturing throughput will expand your company’s efficiency and productivity, alleviate waste, and boost revenue.
With these strategies, you will attain a favorable manufacturing throughput in a reduced amount of time. But here is the catch: you need professional help to make the best of your efforts and to make informed decisions.