Hero Simple

Process Optimization in Manufacturing: 5 Best Practices

July 26, 2023

8 minread

As industrial manufacturing continues to evolve into the digital era, the imperatives for process optimization have become all the more essential. In the face of uncertain global economic trends, supply chain disruptions, sustainability priorities, and ever-changing customer needs, manufacturers are pushed to their limits regarding resilience and agility.

However, this adversity is also a chance for growth and innovation. By strategically hiring manufacturing consulting services, companies stay at the cutting edge of competitiveness and profitability.

Moreover, within the context of Industry 4.0, technology-driven process optimization offers an opportunity to connect workers and drive digital transformation, thus arming manufacturers with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed.

process optimization in manufacturing

What Is Production Optimization and How Does It Work?

Production optimization is a proactive process of adjusting the production system to maximize efficiency and productivity.

It applies a range of models, analysis, prioritization, and measurement techniques to different aspects of the production process, such as equipment, staging areas, inventory protocols, facility layout, conveyance, and more to rectify:

  • Convoluted workflows
  • Inconsistent productivity
  • Late delivery
  • Quality-control errors
  • Workstation bottlenecks
  • Poorly utilized space
  • Slow production lines
  • Wasted time spent on tedious or repetitive tasks

Common methods of process optimization in manufacturing include data analysis, simulation, process mapping, and statistical modeling.

Common process optimization methodologies entail:

  • Reengineering: Completely redesigning a process from the ground up.
  • Lean manufacturing: Eliminating waste and improving efficiency.
  • Six Sigma: Improving quality and reducing variation.
  • Business process management (BPM): Look at all aspects of process improvement, from design to implementation to measurement.

Depending on the findings, manufacturing optimization techniques may involve changing manufacturing equipment and materials to increase efficiency and lower costs, reducing inventory, enhancing quality control, and implementing technological innovations.

Production optimization has been a longstanding practice of the manufacturing industry to maximize efficacy. Typically, companies opt for a single comprehensive consulting assignment where an experienced team will assess the entire product design and production cycle and instigate an agenda of transformational changes that can be applied over multiple months or years.

Production Optimization vs. Process Optimization

Process optimization eliminates specific steps within the production system to maximize efficiency, while production optimization aims to optimize the entire production process. It uses models based on real-time data to analyze flow rates, machine layout, labor utilization, and other factors to improve the functions of the entire production system.

Production optimization comprises steps like:

  • Rearranging factory layout
  • Changing machines and tools at the point of use
  • Implementing new work-in-progress (WIP) procedures
  • Assessing the Human Machine Interface HMI) layout
  • Upskilling and retraining staff to respond to new systems and habits
  • Developing new inventory delivery procedures

Unlocking Maximum Efficiency: The Benefits of Production and Process Optimization

optimizing production

Manufacturing companies that apply factory optimization measures benefit from increased efficiency, output, resource utilization, and more.

Improved Machine Operating Time

Manufacturers reduce or eliminate lost productivity by addressing the root causes of unplanned downtime, such as machine breakdowns, operator errors, and quality issues. Production process optimization can be used to minimize planned downtime and improve machine utilization by balancing workloads, running machines at their optimal speeds, and avoiding bottlenecks in the production process

Faster Resolutions at the Machine Level

Data visualization helps leaders identify areas and processes that need to be improved, such as the WIP flow, equipment layout, and operator training. Optimizing manufacturing production processes quicken response time and increase uptime when an issue arises with the machine. Changes such as creating a better operator training system and improving material quality can have a strong multiplier effect on a machine’s uptime.

Proactive Maintenance

Modern maintenance programs use automated data collection to improve equipment functioning and maximize uptime. With this data, maintenance can be either prescriptive or predictive, depending on the equipment’s conditions.

Advanced sensing systems collect information on the real-time state of the equipment, while analytics anticipates potential failures and schedules replacements or repairs during low-demand periods, such as during changeovers or shutdowns.

This reduces costs and minimizes the risk of unexpected downtime in heavy-duty production, such as in the oil, gas, and construction industries.

Enhanced Product Quality

Optimizing production processes can lead to many benefits in terms of product quality. To give just a few examples, it can result in:

  • Reduced variation in how products are made
  • Improved accuracy to specifications
  • Increased reliability
  • Enhanced durability
  • Fewer defects

This contributes to better quality, meaning products are more likely to meet customers’ performance, safety, and durability expectations.

Operation Transparency

Process optimization improves operation visibility by making progress tracking and bottleneck identification easier. Streamlining processes, automating tasks, and improving communication between departments are key elements of process optimization that empower managers to make better decisions and increase efficiency.

For example, process optimization could involve eliminating unnecessary steps, automating tasks, and improving communication between departments in a manufacturing setting. This improves visibility and promotes quicker resolutions, leading to improved efficiency.

Better Resource Allocation

Identifying and eliminating inefficient or unnecessary steps in a process improves resource allocation and customer satisfaction. For instance, a process optimization team may find some steps in a company’s order-processing process redundant and can be removed. Examples include verifying orders that have already been paid for and packing items that are not being shipped immediately.

What Does Process Optimization Entail?

production optimization

Most production optimization methods require analyzing three primary areas where optimization can be accomplished: equipment, operations, and controls.

Equipment Optimization

Equipment optimization improves industrial manufacturing equipment’s performance, efficiency, reliability, and safety. It involves analyzing production data, developing programs to improve production, inspecting equipment, and identifying areas of inefficiency. Equipment optimization enhances output, reduces downtime, and saves energy costs. The result is a system that runs smoother and produces more profit.

Controls Optimization

From a manufacturing perspective, control optimization is the process of leveraging machine controls and automated systems to optimize the production of goods. It includes procedures such as efficient workflow design, optimization of production-line processes, and IT-facilitated automation to optimize production processes.

This optimization process reduces production costs, improves quality, and increases productivity. Moreover, control optimization can help manufacturers improve their energy efficiency and reduce their environmental footprint.

Operations Optimization

In evaluating current processes and procedures, operations optimization considers cost, process time, quality, and output rate to determine the most profitable solutions.

This requires an in-depth assessment of various operational tasks and activities, including inventory management, marketing, customer service, supply chain management, etc., to gain valuable insights into bottlenecks and redundancies.

It may suggest changes to the output rate, quality management, and staffing levels to achieve more cost-efficient operations.

Manufacturing Process Optimization Problems

The value of production optimization strategies in the manufacturing industry is undeniable, but not without ideological, economic, and practical challenges.

Insufficient Real-Time Data

Without real-time information, manufacturing managers and operators cannot make sound decisions or take decisive action on any necessary alterations. They cannot identify any bottlenecks or production inefficiencies in good time, leading to significant productivity losses. Moreover, with no real-time data to find the key performance indicators (KPIs), it is hard to measure and assess the efficacy of any process improvements.

Getting Objective Information

Experts have found that the methods used to optimize processes fall short in three ways: not integrating the relevant data sources, not utilizing the most effective analytical procedures, and leaving it up to the analyst to determine the best process design.

While it is necessary and beneficial to hear the input of those in the field and those working throughout the process, objective and accurate data is needed to make the best decisions.

Tracking Vanity Metrics

An outcome-oriented strategy guarantees real results to the company – progress tied to significant corporate metrics, particularly monetary measures, is the most essential. Employee productivity, the effectiveness of business forms, and other valuable measurements likewise assume a part. The test is to avoid utilizing metrics unrelated to the organization’s manufacturing operations key performance cues, for example, the so-called “vanity metrics.”

Resistance to Change

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 have caused great uncertainty for warehouse staff, who fear losing their jobs to AI or machines. It is important to remember, though; technology can also make their jobs easier and more productive.

Communication and transparency are key in keeping teams informed; when implementing process improvements, ensure your labor force understands how it benefits them and your organization.

Lack of Expertise

Process optimization can be difficult without the proper expertise, resulting in ineffective solutions and wasted time and resources. Those trying to optimize the process may be unable to figure out the best solution, leading to ineffective implementations. Additionally, the implementation may not fully utilize available time and resources.

Unintended Consequences

Despite the potential benefits of optimization efforts, there can be unintended consequences that may not be immediately noticeable. These may include an increase in complexity, higher costs, and a decrease in quality, which may only be realized after the optimization process has been implemented.

Insufficient Testing

Before putting any new processes or technologies into use, it is essential to undertake rigorous testing to guarantee their efficiency and dependability. Skipping testing or not completing it thoroughly can lead to unexpected issues or breakdowns at a later stage.

To avoid such consequences, it is important to comprehend the goals and objectives of the optimization process. Involving staff and stakeholders in the process is also essential, and every new process or technology should be tested and assessed carefully before implementation.

5 Effective Tips for Optimizing Manufacturing Processes

manufacturing optimization

As the demand of customers and technology develop, all processes must be optimized to remain competitive. We believe the manufacturing industry needs to continue adapting to technological changes, such as automation and digitization.

#1. Identify Improvement Areas

Process mapping involves collecting data from process steps and plant management software and gathering input from involved employees to learn about bottleneck areas. This paints a clear picture of what is happening and pinpoints areas for improvement.

#2. Access Real-time Data

Technological advances provide many possibilities for streamlining processes, with the most successful strategies relying on access to precise, up-to-date information concerning plant parameters. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices can monitor and record every facet of a facility and share the data in real-time, creating comprehensive transparency across an entire plant.

#3. Automate, then Augment

Automating manufacturing processes reduces costs, increases accuracy, and decreases operational risks. This eliminates manual monitoring, creating efficient and reliable production operations while improving safety by minimizing human errors.

Augmented automation systems speed up production, reduce costs, optimize product quality, and provide data to identify potential areas for improvement, ultimately lowering costs and increasing operational performance.

#4. Leverage Technology

Technology is necessary for production optimization because it increases efficiency and minimizes errors. It streamlines processes, reduces manual labor, and provides an analytical view of production data to help spot potential problems before they arise. As data analysis capabilities improve, technology uncovers new insights that lead to more efficient production and help business owners make more informed decisions.

#5. Monitor Progress

To maximize the potential of their processes, project managers should start by analyzing the current operations and setting goals for the desired result. Despite the temptation to focus on multiple processes simultaneously, it is better to tackle optimization on a process-by-process basis to maintain continuous improvement. Project managers can ensure their operations run at maximum potential by staying abreast of advances and always striving for the best methods.

How Cultivate Advisors Can Help You Optimize Manufacturing Processes

Process optimization is integral in modern manufacturing. It involves analyzing, automating, and augmenting processes to increase efficiency and output while reducing costs, improving quality, and uncovering new insights. However, it’s vital to implement it from a proactive rather than reactive approach.

With the right processes in place, manufacturers can easily maximize the potential of their production system and unlock maximum efficiency. At Cultivate Advisors, we have an experienced manufacturing optimization consultation team that can bridge the gap between where you are and where you wish to be.

Call us today to learn how to optimize your manufacturing processes.

Transform Your Manufacturing Operations Today!

Want to learn how to optimize manufacturing processes?

Call Cultivate Advisors!
Cta 1
Cta 2

Get the Plan, Partner, and Process to Confidently Grow Your Business

Set up a quick call to learn more about the Cultivate Advising process and how it applies to your business.

Schedule Initial Call