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Using Manufacturing Software to Increase Productivity and Profit
When you’re in the manufacturing business, there are many things to worry about: supply chains, raw materials, workforce, training, equipment, maintenance, and quality. Two things that most companies obsess over are productivity and profitability. These are essential in managing an efficient service-based manufacturing operation, and they are totally intertwined.
The formula itself is fairly simple:
- More productive = More profitable
- Fewer errors = Fewer non-conformances
- Less rework and scrap = Lower cost of production
Making it happen is much more complex, however. It all starts with a quality control program to manage your entire production pathway, from work order to finished product.
The first step is committing to ditching your manual processes. They’re inefficient. Paperwork can get lost or misplaced. They might be completely filled out or results don’t get recorded. There are instances where it’s difficult to read what’s been written or numbers get transposed, causing trouble when it’s time for an audit. Manual processes can make audits messy, time-consuming, and frustrating.
The only way to efficiently and effectively improve productivity is by using the right manufacturing software to manage the process from end to end. This can reduce audit time by as much as 50%. It improves quality and productivity while reducing scrap, waste, and rework.
Six Key Ways to Improve Manufacturing Productivity
When it comes to improving manufacturing productivity, it takes a structured and measured approach to get results. Here are six steps to take:
- Review your existing workflow.
- Update your process and tech.
- Commit to a formal maintenance schedule.
- Train and educate employees.
- Organize your workplace.
- Manage inventory.
1. Review Existing Workflow
Thoroughly review your people, processes, and technology.
- People: Take an objective look at whether you have the right people in place with the right skills.
- Process: Process mapping can help determine pain points and bottlenecks.
- Equipment: Examine whether you have efficient equipment or whether replacements will provide speed, quality, or cost-efficiency.
2. Update Your Process and Technology
If you’re like most service-based manufacturers, a thorough examination of your workflow will identify areas that need updating or changing. Over time, you may have changed out equipment without updating processes or built-in workarounds. These can now be eliminated.
Do you have complete end-to-end manufacturing software to manage your production pathway? The right software can help streamline your workflow, improve productivity, reduce scrap and rework, and provide real-time data for monitoring.
3. Scheduled Maintenance
It’s way too easy to put off maintenance. But delaying or ignoring it will only lead to lost productivity at some point down the road.
- Commit to a maintenance schedule.
- Use manufacturing software, such as Bluestreak, to alert you when equipment needs maintenance.
- Build maintenance into your planning calendar.
4. Train and Educate Employees
Education and training are crucial to ensure that employees have the skills they need to operate efficiently. Think about training as more than something that’s required for new employees or when new equipment is installed.
Training should occur regularly and consistently, especially when taking on new projects that may require new skills. Your manufacturing software can record training to help with compliance requirements or when it’s time for a quality audit.
5. Organize Your Workplace
Over time, the workplace can get chaotic. New equipment may be jammed into places that don’t quite fit the workflow. Material storage goes where there’s space but not necessarily in the most efficient location.
- Use process mapping to review workflow.
- Optimize the shop floor to eliminate anything unnecessary.
- Reduce travel time wherever possible.
Manufacturing software can help with project scheduling.
6. Manage Inventory Levels
Managing your supply chain and inventory levels can be tricky. When you have excess inventory in-house, it’s tying up capital that could be used for other purposes.
Here’s another place that manufacturing software can help. By linking inventory items to vendors, parts, and materials, you can review transaction history and issue purchase orders electronically. You can also set up real-time notifications to automatically let you know when there are low inventory levels or new materials are added to your supply.
Here’s How Bluestreak’s Integrated Quality Management System (QMS) and Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Can Address Productivity
Bluestreak can dramatically increase manufacturing productivity by managing the people, processes, and equipment. It manages each step in the production pathway to provide end-to-end quality control.
When you’ve managed the entire process with Bluestreak, you raise the bar on quality. This means you’ll create better products, reduce non-conformances, and catch any errors more quickly. In turn, this reduces scrap and waste.
Without adding more equipment or employees, Bluestreak can significantly reduce your production costs, raise your quality, and make your employees more productive
- Quote to Invoice/Q2i
- Work Order Management
- Production Pathway
- Monitor All Work in Progress
- Advanced Specifications Manager
- Documented Audit Trail
- Complete Document Control
- Intuitive Scheduling Tool
- Preventive Maintenance Tool
- Risk Analysis
- Identification, Assessment, and Prioritization of Risks
- Purchase Order and Inventory
- Inventory Management and PO Capability
- Advanced Quality
- Risk Analysis, Rounding, and Converted Units
- Manage Industry Specifications and Guidelines
- Advanced Control Plans/Sampling Plans
- Advanced Quality Characteristics
- Statistical Process Control
- Monitor and Control Processes
- Purchase Order and Inventory
- Capture quote, generate POs, and link inventory
- Optimize delivery grouping and routing
- Integrate Bluestreak with your existing data logging system
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Connects sales teams, customers, vendors, and prospects
- Customer Connector
- Provide self-service and placing information to customers
Use Bluestreak’s Integrated QMS to seamlessly integrate your floor operations and ensure tight quality controls and flawless production. It improves the overall health of your business and helps you reach goals such as meeting all order specifications, increasing productivity, and making your company an attractive place for talented engineers to work.
Process Automation Has Changed Everything
Automation has revolutionized manufacturing.
In the automotive industry, assembly plants have been using robots to automate processes for years. Companies like Tesla are trying to take this to an even higher level. In aviation, where safety is paramount to meet Federal Aviation Administration certifications, manufacturers such as Boeing are implementing automation to eliminate human error. In the electronics industry, automation and process control are being used to reduce labor costs. Manufacturers such as Foxconn plan to automate as much as 30% of its production in 2020.
For smaller manufacturing shops, automation can be a boon for human productivity—and it’s not just helpful for the bottom line by eliminating workers. Implementing automation frees up valuable time and resources to focus on more important tasks. Automation in manufacturing on the business operations side takes away repetitive tasks like scheduling and quality control, which can lead to a more optimized production floor with less wasted time and a higher profit margin.
Bluestreak’s Integrated QMS + MES automates functions to improve quality control and improve productivity. Bluestreak manufacturing software is specifically designed for service-based manufacturers. It has the features that manufacturers need without having to make a significant investment to overhaul the production floor.
The kind of automation that Bluestreak provides to a production environment is especially important in improving quality control. It eliminates much of the human error that can lead to low-quality products or excess time spent doing too much quality control. Bluestreak allows for job-specific quality control and specifications management to take the guesswork out of producing a consistent, quality product that meets your customer’s exacting specifications.
Real-time shop floor tracking monitors all work in progress at every stage of processing, from contract review to shipment. It empowers operators by giving them access to critical information such as processing data, part pictures, drawings, purchase orders, etc.
By providing operators and supervisors with critical information and valuable time, Bluestreak delivers greater shop floor productivity.
Reducing Scrap, Rework, and Non-conformances
Every manufacturer wants to avoid scrap, rework, and non-conformances. Each one causes delays in finishing jobs, wastes raw materials, and can require retooling. Then, add in lost labor costs and lost opportunity. On top of that, it may require shutting down production lines to analyze the process to find the root cause and develop preventative actions to correct it. It all adds up quickly and can dramatically increase your cost of production.
Managing Non-Conformances, Scrap, and Waste
Bluestreak helps prevent and manage non-conformances.
- Management of nonconformance parts, scrap, and waste
- Advanced disposition control of scrap/parts
- Issue non-conformances that automatically prevent parts from entering the next step in processing
- Management of advanced disposition control of scrap and parts.
Bluestreak also manages any CAPAs that need to be implemented.
- CAPAs are automatically connected to future orders.
- Quality managers know that CAPA instructions are viewed/acknowledged via electronic signatures.
- You can view all work orders that are connected to a CAPA.
- You can enforce the collecting of quality data from the shop floor during processing.
Managing Statistical Process Control
A vital part of managing throughput is statistical process control (SPC). With Bluestreak | SPC, you can configure any control plan characteristic. When test results are added, everything is updated in real time. You will be automatically notified if there are any issues.
SPC has extensible support for statistical rules to help you spot trends before your process is out of control. Upper and lower control limits are automatically calculated, but you get to determine when you want to tighten your control limits.
Results are associated with a specific load/operation at the time of entry.
- It provides instant process feedback to inspection personnel, allowing for immediate response to detrimental process variation.
- It uses the Westinghouse run rules to highlight non-random out-of-control conditions to simplify chart interpretations and reduce training time.
- The sample size is controlled at the process level, ensuring that the sampling plan is followed at the work order level.
- IX and MR charts allow the plotting of single-quality characteristics, such as case depth and mechanical characteristics.
- It enables predictive maintenance by using the system’s run charts to identify non-random changes in the operating parameters of essential process equipment.
- It allows for lean manufacturing total productive maintenance by providing equipment operators instant feedback, allowing personnel to address negative trends before out-of-tolerance conditions occur.
- It enables you to set control limits manually at the outset of new processes and during the initial data collection phase to provide visual aids while creating processes that are capable and in control.
- It can automatically calculate the control limits after the completion of the process development and data collection phases.
- It enables you to recalculate the control limits with the tap of a button after process improvement activities.
- Personnel responsible for developing processes select the operation where data collection occurs.
- It simplifies root cause analysis when non-conformances occur by providing data from key operating systems.
- It improves the repeatability and reproducibility of inspection equipment by using the SPC programs during the calibration and verification processes.
- Summary statistics provide critical values, such as Cp and Cpk, allowing inspection personnel to efficiently report certification and shipping documents.
Increasing productivity and profitability means instituting a policy of continuous improvement. Even small and incremental improvements in your production pathway can lead to significant savings.
Many service-based manufacturers pay lip service to continuous improvement programs, but few actually follow through. One recent survey of manufacturers demonstrated this stark reality:
- 60% of manufacturers surveyed indicated that continuous improvement (quality, cost, speed, value) was highly important to their future success.
- Only a third said that their facility was taking steps in this direction.
- Just 5% said that their efforts had produced world-class results.
Continuous improvement requires a proactive quality control and quality assurance program aimed to improve productivity. This includes conducting internal product audits, process audits, and quality audits at regular intervals, not just to comply with external audits.
It means using a formal CAPA process—not just to solve today’s problems, but to find flaws that can lead to overall improvements.
It takes transparency in data using the right manufacturing software. Bluestreak’s QMS + MES creates a paperless workflow, an automated workflow, and an automated audit trail. It automatically flags conflicts and connects work orders with real-time data.
By capturing every piece of data at every step of the production pathway and making it available in real time, using the right manufacturing software can help:
- Reduce manufacturing costs by reducing waste, scrap, and costly rework.
- Improve workplace safety.
- Eliminate process inefficiencies.
- Manage the entire production pathway.
Another area that Bluestreak’s MES + QMS system excels in is the management of nonconforming parts and scrap. It automatically issues non-conformances that prevent parts from entering the next step in processing. It can stop small issues from becoming big problems.
When CAPAs are needed, they are automatically connected to future orders. Quality managers can track CAPA instructions, which must be viewed and acknowledged by shop floor personnel before proceeding. It also helps enforce data collection from the shop floor during processing.
As parts are produced, quality test data is stored, and a complete audit trail is available for compliance. This includes everything from version tracking, approvals, and notifications to policy administration of quality documentation. Bluestreak provides a detailed, time-stamped, and user-identified audit trail for each document to meet required accreditations, certifications, and compliance standards, such as ISO 9001 or AS9100.
This audit trail should be reviewed at project completion to find inefficiencies and roadblocks that impact productivity to provide critical information to continually refine and improve the manufacturing process.
Improved Quality Management and Productivity Go Hand in Hand
Many manufacturers employ a Total Quality Management (TQM) strategy to involve everyone on the shop floor in the continuous improvement process. It takes an effective communication platform to collect, store, and analyze data at every level of the company. This information can be used for improvement.
When TQM principles are embedded in the quality discipline and culture of the organization, it empowers employees to find efficiencies and improve both quality and productivity. TQM requires the right manufacturing software to facilitate analysis and quality integration. Bluestreak can promote these practices by:
- Improving communication
- Providing real-time data
- Improving document organization and access
- Fully documenting change management
- Optimizing the production process
Quality management and productivity go hand-in-hand. Eliminating defects and non-conformances reduces costs and leads to higher profitability, improved customer satisfaction, and better productivity. Every step you can take to reduce the cost of goods production goes right to the bottom line.
Here is a partial list of key components of Bluestreak’s integrated QMS and how they can help improve your QC and QA programs:
- Online help and training videos
- ITAR/EAR user viewing controls
- Flexible and customizable certifications
- Control plan characteristics (even at the operation level)
- Quality testing results with <<Rapid Add Quality>>
- Role-based access control and restricted user viewing controls
- Integrated control plans and process rules and instructions for operators
- Industrial Additive Manufacturing (AM/3D Printing) workflows
- Built-in hyperlinks throughout the system
- Pre-loaded commonly used quality characteristics and the capability to add as many as needed
- Quality test result data storage (reported result, measured, converted, and rounded)
- Full transparency of data for verification of how test values were collected and reported
- Product deliveries automatically grouped by customer and delivery address to assist the driver
- Single click on delivery address to access Google Maps
- Centrally managed customer contact information, billing and shipping information, customer notes, part data, purchase orders, quotes, customer specific-media, etc.
- Real-time notifications to customers/managers via email and/or text message of when parts have been picked up, put on a truck for delivery, or delivered to their dock and signed off
- Ability to easily see who accepted the parts delivery and verify proof of delivery
- Manageable user-defined risk templates with scorable risk questions and answers to determine overall risk in processing a particular part
Ten Warning Signs That Your Systems Aren’t Working
If you’re wondering whether your current systems are working to optimize your manufacturing process, look for these warning signs. If you’re experiencing any of these, your systems aren’t producing at peak efficiency and it’s time to make a few changes.
- Failed audits
- Constant recalibration
- Failure to meet specs
- Excessive scrap and rework
- Unexplained downtime
- Poor scheduling
- Missed deadlines or budgets
- High maintenance costs
- Customer complaints
- Consistent overtime
You’ve probably experienced some or all of these at some point in your career—maybe even recently. Imagine being able to eliminate all of these and what it would do for your organization. It’s possible with the right manufacturing software designed for service-based manufacturers.
When the quality control plan is flawed, your operation pays the price. Workers can become disengaged. This decreases productivity and increases your attrition rate.
One of the most frustrating things that happen in manufacturing facilities is when people start to accept that these signs are normal. When defects become “acceptable,” work suffers. It then becomes ingrained in the culture and difficult to break. This leads to inefficiencies, increased scrap and rework, and low morale.
Poor quality can impact your reputation and hurt your relationships with current customers and suppliers. It can also make it difficult to attract new customers.
The more that you have to rework projects, deal with customer complaints, or manage any other problems caused by poor quality, the less time and money you have to invest in other areas. It can become an endless cycle that hurts your profitability.
If you lack the continuous improvement process that you need to increase productivity and maintain high levels of quality, it’s time to invest in manufacturing software that can get the job done.
Improve Productivity and Profitability with Bluestreak
In today’s global manufacturing environment, squeezing out every ounce of productivity is essential. Competition can be fierce. The pandemic didn’t help things, as orders slowed and business paused. That made it even more important for service-based manufacturers to be efficient and reduce the cost of production on current orders.
Every year, hundreds of manufacturers close their doors. With thin margins, the line between meeting your financial goals and missing the mark is quite small. More often than not, the manufacturing company that struggles and ultimately fails does so because management has not exhausted all their options to improve the daily operations of the company.
Here’s the bottom line about your bottom line: improving productivity and creating end-to-end efficiency in your manufacturing process will lead to a more profitable company.
You already likely have a certain level of concern about whether you’re doing everything possible to create an efficient, productive, and profitable manufacturing business. So, you owe it to yourself, your company, your employees, and your customers to talk to the manufacturing software experts at Bluestreak to see if there’s a better manufacturing software solution that can improve your operations. Contact Bluestreak today for a free demo, and let us show you how we can help your business achieve its goals.
Bluestreak’s MES + QMS solution helps service-based manufacturers increase production floor productivity and increase their profits.
If you’re ready to leave manual, time-consuming service-based manufacturing tasks in the past, drastically reduce your scrap and rework percentage, gain visibility of your production floor processes, and build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free consultation today!