The best-organized companies routinely revisit their core values and processes. Changes in the marketplace, technology advancements, equipment upgrades, or product line alterations are all factors that may compel reassessments of values and processes and changes in manufacturing processes. And the results of revisiting and reassessing may be just a simple tweak right on up to a complete rebuild of an assembly line. In this article, we’ll explore the top five tips that any manufacturing company can use when facing the need to suddenly or gradually improve processes.
Tip #1 – Tackle The Project With A Team Mindset
You’ve heard this before. Working as a team is far better than team members working independently and potentially against each other. Everyone must be rowing the boat in the same direction, and only one person should be steering. The reason a team mindset brings greater strengths to improving a manufacturing process is because of the diversity of the skills available among team members. Sure, one well-rounded individual could potentially figure out how to alter, as needed, a manufacturing process. But when a company has input from the variety of skillsets within the team, the level of quality increases and the probability of failure decreases.
Tip #2 – Involve The End User Whenever Possible
Boosting sales or keeping up with trends are good reasons for assessing and improving items in a product line. But don’t keep your product improvement process completely in-house; involve your customers and clients too. Use panels, focus groups, and round table discussions with end-users to collect their thoughts, suggestions, and input on what the product changes should be. When you engage your customers, they become loyal to your brand and business and willing to help to see it succeed.
Tip #3 – Gain A Full Understanding Of The Cost Of Quality
Quality doesn’t come cheap, but it can come smart. It’s much more cost-effective to remedy a problem at the source than to fix a problem in a product that’s already in the hands of consumers. Share the math related to warranty repair, product replacement, and the cost of a damaged reputation with team members and make it part of the thinking and design of each manufacturing process. If everyone in the supply chain understands what these costs are and the situations that may multiply the costs, nipping problems in the bud can become a process of its own, saving your company a great deal of money. Quality control is a huge part of this and for evidence of the cost, just consider what’s happened recently to the most esteemed airplane manufacturing company in the world.
Tip #4 – Solve Problems As Soon As They Are Encountered
It may sound like a simple concept: someone has a problem, you fix it right away, and everybody is happy. Sadly, that’s not always how things work out in the end. Sometimes the problem is much more complex. Sometimes the customer’s requests and expectations are much more complex. Regardless, taking on the task of solving a problem related to your product is all a part of customer service. It is also important to track what the problems are as there may be a remedy to some of them following a slight design change or update to the product.
Tip #5 – Adopt Good Practices (GxP) Throughout The Entire Process
Although this may come across as an obvious tip, it is often taken for granted and consequently may not be discussed. Any business today can credit a solid business plan as one source of its success. But that business plan must have clearly defined processes of how goals are to be made, met, and maintained. The most logical and consistent way to do this is through the implementation of good practices. For heavily regulated industries, GxP is an expectation that sets parameters and provides guidelines to follow to stay compliant, according to Dickson.
Bonus Tip – Watch What Others In Your Industry Are Doing
This is an old piece of advice in the business world. One way to know where you stand in your particular industry is to seek out your competition and monitor what they are doing and how they are doing it. You may discover an early tip to address an issue that may come your way or you may find a trend worth following. Knowing who your competitors are and what they’re doing helps to educate you and your staff to be alert to changes in the industry before they impact all players. Plus, watching competitors makes you work harder at what you do.
Why Would You Improve Your Manufacturing Process?
If it’s not broken, why fix it, right? Well, as streamlined as you may think your manufacturing process is, it can always use an update of some kind. That’s not to encourage downsizing, either. Any time you improve your process of getting a product made and ready for the market, you are potentially lowering your cost and improving your profit. In other words, you can’t afford to not improve your process when an obvious positive change has been identified. By not responding to the needs of your suppliers or customers with improvements, you are not only ignoring best practices, but you are also costing your company unnecessary expenses.
There are several ways to make something better. You’ve seen the branding: New and Improved…Now With (Special Ingredient). It ’s common practice to take something and tweak it to make it better. It’s a smart business move in an ever-evolving marketplace where your product may be hot right now but due to forces beyond your control, it soon becomes cold. Improving the manufacturing process addresses the immediacy of changing product lines.
One of the biggest factors that can dictate the need for improvement comes from the guidelines set out in good practices. If your company works hard in its regulated industry to maintain compliance, changes to that industry and its compliance standards can push your company into the need for updating and improving manufacturing processes. Regardless of the skepticism with which a compliance change might be greeted, you can look at any such update or alteration as an opportunity to take a positive step into the future for your manufacturing company.
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