Production OptimizationThe Fundamentals

A Quick Guide to Production Process Improvement

There is a number of questions that need be considered in production process improvement. What is the value that the production process has to generate for the customer? How should the process look like to deliver this value? How to identify solutions to key problems and process bottlenecks? What does successful implementation involve? And many more.

This quick but elaborate guide aims to provide guidance in navigating production process improvement using a value-driven approach. When creating it, we attempted to keep the idea of value in the back of our minds and integrate it throughout this guide. We made sure to think about value in terms of value for your customer, business and people involved.

Step 1: Identify the value

The very first step in improving your production line is identifying the value it has to deliver to your customer. Depending on your customer’s needs and the nature of the product, the value can be determined in terms of product quality, price, delivery time and other factors that are critical for your customer. Make sure to get an in-depth understanding of what value really means for your customer, as this understanding will ensure that all improvement steps taken in the future directly result in more value for your customer.

Step 2: Examine your production line

With an idea of the customer value in mind, examine your production process and understand how the product moves from a raw material to the final product and to the customer. Taking a holistic system approach, identify key problems, process bottlenecks, material, energy and labor waste as wells as opportunities in your production system. The goal is to eliminate process steps, equipment and labour that do not create value.

Step 3: Find solutions

Come up with accurate cost-effective solutions that address identified problems and process bottlenecks, eliminate waste and leverage opportunities your production system entails. Depending on the nature of your project, you may consider some of these solutions:

  • electromechanical automation of your production process;
  • minimization of transition processes between work stations;
  • assigning additional resources to the bottleneck workstation;
  • implementation of a more efficient work floor design;
  • employee training;
  • and more.

Step 4: Re-engineer the process

Incorporate identified solutions into your production process. Check if all steps are value-creating and if they occur in tight sequence so that your product flows smoothly towards the customer.

Step 5: Understand the financial impact

Before starting with implementation, make sure you have a good understanding of the financial impact of identified solutions and the new process on your business. It is important to make an ROI-positive investment. Therefore, it makes sense to make a good estimation of investment and return associated with the implementation of identified solutions that occur over a period of time.

Step 6: Implement new production process

For a successful implementation, it is essential that project management and change management go hand in hand. It is important to remember that the success of the project is not only determined by the implementation of the new more efficient production process and equipment. It is success-critical that everyone involved sees the value and benefits from the new process and that job- and skills-related transitions are facilitated effectively and with consideration of individual perspectives and needs. Therefore, make sure your implementation plan integrates a change management perspective and addresses people-related topics.

Step 7: Improve continuously

Let’s not forget that today’s manufacturing environment is dynamic and competitive. As a result, new and changing customer demands need to be constantly incorporated into the production process. Moreover, given the fast pace at which industrial technologies have been developing, it is critical to regularly upgrade your production process and equipment to ensure competitive production costs and quality. Therefore, continuous improvement is not to be omitted. Rather than looking at production process improvement as a one-time project, adapt a long-term perspective and continuously improve and evaluate the process against the value it generates. It is important that you plan and dedicate time and resources for this exercise.

We would love to read your thoughts and ideas on production process automation in the comment section below.

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