Once you know WHERE you want to go, the next step is mapping out HOW to get there.
As an operations manager or business owner, there’s seemingly no end to the moving parts and pieces that you’re responsible for each day. When it comes down to it, the bottom line is, well... your bottom line. You want each and every bit of effort to pay the biggest dividends.
It’s well known that decreasing your production lead time and increasing efficiency (while maintaining quality standards) will directly impact your profitability. But the question that begins to separate savvy businesses from the pack is, “How?”
We’ve identified six practical strategies to help reduce your production lead time and see huge gains in efficiency — both of which have the potential to yield an increase in revenue.
1. Evaluate current processes to identify inefficiencies and new goals.
Much like planning any venture, it pays to take the time to assess what’s working and what’s not. Begin by recording your current average production lead time — how long does it take for your product to move from initiation to completion?
You can measure your line efficiency by adding the standard times for each process in your production line together, then dividing by the actual time it takes for a product to cycle through the line. Take special note of any lost time between stations. For the greatest cost-efficiency, a good goal is to increase efficiency of your line to at least 80%.
You’ll also want to collect data on your materials, sales, and inventory in order to have the full picture of where you are so you can ferret out any existing waste, whether in materials or productivity.
2. Plan for the future, leveraging automation to its full advantage.
Using technology to its fullest advantage is one of the easiest solutions to improving lead time and increasing efficiency, but some companies are leery of taking this leap. Some reasons for this might include: perceived expense, feeling overwhelmed by where to begin, or concerns about turning tasks over to machines.
When it comes to reducing production lead time without sacrificing quality, the return on investment (ROI) of automating tasks like labeling can be significant. By reducing working hours while increasing efficiency, the initial equipment investment can quickly pay off and set your business on a path toward greater growth and success for the future.
Planning ahead is a key strategy for increasing efficiency that can help eradicate costly last-minute decisions that result from packaging being left as an afterthought.
3. Streamline your production line to reduce bottlenecks.
Many businesses don’t blink an eye at purchasing the equipment needed to make their product(s) but stop short of automating their entire line, not realizing that this can severely cripple their ability to increase efficiency.
When products begin piling up while waiting to be labeled before they can leave your warehouse, precious time is lost. Sometimes companies are forced to lower the speed of production equipment because hand labelers can’t keep up. This is ultimately limiting the potential ROI of every piece of equipment you’ve invested in. Adding professional labeling equipment to your line opens that potential wide up and allows you to run all of your equipment at maximum efficiency for higher returns.
4. Cross-train and maximize employee effectiveness.
While automation may sometimes get a bad rap from those who worry about job loss due to technology taking over, 140 years of data shows that technological advancement has created more jobs than it’s destroyed.
With automation, you’ll no longer need to wait on employees to finish labeling products that were packaged hours ago — but that doesn’t mean these employees can’t receive training to oversee the new equipment or be used with increased efficiency elsewhere in your operation. Using professional labeling equipment can result in higher returns, and it can improve your lead time drastically.
5. Schedule periodic equipment evaluation and upkeep.
Another enemy of production lead time and efficiency is the dreaded downtime. Whether due to equipment or human error or illness. The best way to stay ahead is to automate with quality equipment that’s sold by a trusted partner with a great service department. Keeping a spare parts kit on hand is a great idea, too.
As you periodically evaluate your existing equipment with preventative maintenance measures, this is a great time to assess whether your line could use additional expansion with add-ons such as filling and capping equipment and pack out tables for even greater increased efficiency.
6. Review sales data and adjust accordingly.
Once you’ve followed the first five strategies to increase efficiency and shorten your lead time, you should be well on your way to seeing improvements in your bottom line. But as your business grows and evolves, it’s crucial to be continually looking ahead and making adjustments as needed.
And so, the sixth strategy we suggest is to never stop improving. When you get through step five, simply start the process again and keep tightening your ship as you go.
Bonus strategy: Ask for help.
One last tip that goes along with each practical strategy listed above is: ask for help along the way. If jumping into the professional labeling arena overwhelms you, Pack Leader USA can help. With decades of experience and exceptional service, we can help you improve your lead time and increase efficiency by recommending the right line equipment and machines for your operation.