• Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

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Improving factory productivity: How can you reduce time spent on the production line?

Recent statistics have shown that UK labour productivity has fallen in 2017 and is lower on average than prior to the economic downturn. There are a few factors contributing to low productivity levels including the unwillingness of company owners to make internal investments — possibly due to the uncertainty of Brexit which could disrupt the industry further.

There are some things that you can do to improve factory productivity without making huge investments —  The Plastic People, retailers of acrylic sheets, tell us more.

Preventive maintenance

Preventive maintenance is one technique that can have positive effects on your productivity levels. This involves regular checks on key pieces of machinery and the identification of problem areas (where the production line is getting held up).

One case study showing the advantages of preventative maintenance is that of a specialty paper mill. They conducted preliminary checks such as addressing any work requests for repairs and modification before moving forward. The condition of all machinery was then assessed according to their current global status and needs. A full preventive maintenance schedule was then implemented with routine checks and engineers flagging any issues they find day-to-day. The result of this was increased plant up time by 15%, which allowed for the production of additional paper volumes valued at several millions of pounds. Call outs for machinery repair fell from two per night to two per week.

Another case study was Tüprag, a goldmine in Turkey. In the first two years of the site opening, production performance was not as high as had been hoped and this was accompanied by a fall in the price of gold. They implanted preventive maintenance through continuously monitoring critical equipment with online systems and control mechanisms — intervening before a breakdown occurred. This resulted in 250 pieces of reliable equipment. Moreover, by finding the root cause of malfunctions and addressing the issue directly, machine efficiency rose by 20%.

Being innovative

Think outside the box when it comes to improving the efficiency of your production line.

Take this example of a car manufacturer. Their mission was to improve the line assembly of component parts in the creation of a vehicle. They offered multiple component customisation options which made the production line more complex.

To reduce manual handling time and extend the production line to the creation of three vehicles, an innovative solution had to be found. This resulted in the design of a single, ready-to-use container where all parts could be stored, organised and passed to the next assembly point. Using lightweight plastic which was virtually unbreakable, a suitable box was designed. Following the introduction of this, production time per vehicle was reduced by five minutes.

Lean production

Introducing lean production into your workplace can also improve efficiency and decrease time spent on the line.

One way to do this is with continuous development. Here, all employees are involved in making improvements to quality where they can. This is similar to total quality management where all workers have a responsibility for getting it right first time and are able to spot any errors as the product progresses through production.

Another technique taken from lean production is JIT (just in time). This is a strategy designed to improve the efficiency of a company and reduce waste. In a JIT system, materials are received only as and when they are needed — this avoids revenue being tied up in stock and damage from an item being left in storage for a long period of time.

Many supermarkets choose to undertake this strategy as it guarantees fresh produce for customers. However, factory based companies also benefit from JIT and it has become widely used following Toyota’s application of the technique.