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    Simple ways to optimise your manufacturing plant’s productivity
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    How can MSMEs make their manufacturing processes more efficient to save time and money?

    Key Highlights

    • Go through your workflows and production data to find potential causes of bottlenecks 

    • RFID and advanced analytics are just two technologies playing a key part in the evolution of the steel industry

    • Machinery and technology may be important but an efficient workforce creates winning solutions

    • Businesses that master demand forecasting can control their destiny

    Efficiently managed factories are more productive, profitable, and have happier employees. Not surprisingly, manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency across their production processes. 

    Here are a few strategies that can go a long way towards making your manufacturing plant more efficient.

    Streamline your workflow

    A manufacturing plant needs to function like clockwork. Multiple processes and production lines must work in harmony, with one process taking off when another one ends. Bottlenecks in any part of the manufacturing unit can have a cascading impact. For example, a delay in the supply of raw material can throw the entire production cycle out of gear, and lead to losses. 

    One of the ways to improve efficiency is to closely track and review your workflows. Analyse your production data to pinpoint areas of concern or flag potential bottlenecks. Look at different aspects of your workflow, including human resources, machinery, technology, and processes. Is one shift more efficient than the other? What makes it so? Is one line more productive than another? Is there a lot of downtime on a particular piece of machinery? 

    Systems such as MES (Manufacturing Execution System) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) are designed to help managers and decision-makers optimise workflows on the shop floor and improve production. Research needs to be conducted to find the right tool for your organisation, as each tool has its advantages and disadvantages.

    Invest in technology

    Technology is a powerful enabler of efficiency. If you are looking at growth and scale, you must invest in upgrading your equipment and plants. The steel industry globally is increasingly investing in automation. Manufacturers are using sensors, information technology, industrial robots, and AI to significantly improve productivity and quality and reduce costs and time. 

    Technologies such as RFID (radio-frequency identification) are helping manufacturers maintain optimal inventory levels and reduce costs of inventory management. They leverage digital data stored in RFID tags and codes to identify individual items. By scanning RFID, organisations can keep track of inventory levels, sales, inventory gaps, and sale patterns. 

    Quality employee training

    Investments in technology without corresponding investments in training your employees and upgrading their skills could be counterproductive. While it is important to train employees on operating specific pieces of equipment, do not ignore coaching the workforce on broader concepts such as workflow management, information technology, and time management.  

    It is equally important to train employees in quality improvement and safety measures. A single quality or safety incident can hurt the reputation of a company. Organisations can invest in seminars and training sessions from experts in various disciplines to up-skill the workforce and ensure that the same language and ethos permeates throughout the organisation at various levels.

    Manage your inventory

    Maintaining optimal inventory levels is a fine art – it requires a deep understanding of not only your own production processes but also an insight into the supply chain dynamics and customer demand. The task is challenging, as managers must hold enough inventory to ensure smooth production while minimizing the risks and costs of stocking too much. Techniques such as just-in-time inventory management, and minimum order quantity must be studied and assessed by individual benefits to identify the right fit for an organisation. Many steel units use predictive analytics and supply chain software to streamline their inventory control processes. These systems automatically alert managers of expected supply chain bottlenecks and delays. Demand forecasting, based on historical data, can also help steel units optimise inventory. Forecasting can tell you, for example, how many units of your product customers are likely to buy in the next three months. Based on this data, you can plan your inventory and production cycles.

    Mastering demand forecasting and regulated inventory management is the path to optimising your plant’s productivity. The best way to do this is by staying is by upgrading and updating your systems on a regular basis.

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