We all know the top priorities for a window and door manufacturing facility is to fill your orders quickly and accurately and deliver these within the required time frame. Often, we are so focused on this that tidying the factory floor, maintaining the facility equipment and reviewing software and systems isn’t high up on the list of things to do. Managing an efficient factory floor will help with your output. 

What has become clear over time is that there is a cost associated with working in an untidy facility, whether it’s employees spending time looking for a specific tool to perform a task, high employee absenteeism, inefficient processes or just the wasted space taken up by storing items that are not required for your forecasted workload.

The benefits of a tidy and well organised factory floor include increased productivity as it’s easier for employees to perform their daily tasks.  It’s also important to comply with health and safety regulations, for example, where designated walkways are kept clear from hazards, preventing injuries and maintaining an excellent safety record.  There are also benefits linked to improved morale among employees as a clean well operated facility promotes good metal and physical health, and a happy workforce = an efficient workplace.

Here are my top tips to maintaining an efficient factory floor:

1. Reclaim non-productive warehouse storage space

It’s not about how much space you have in your facility, but how well the space is optimized. Organize a clean-up and reduce any clutter and unnecessary items, such as left over metal off cuts, allowing you to reclaim floor space. 

Make sure you are stocking material for requirements to practice inventory optimization. Too much stock of the right material will result in additional pressure on your facility and profits sitting in stock holdings, and too much of the wrong stock results in bottom line losses and dead storage space in your facility.

2. Revisit your factory floor layout

The current layout may have suited your facility 5 years ago before your business started to grow, but it’s important to understand if the layout can work better for you and improve factory efficiencies.  Look at where the current processes form a bottleneck, speak to your employees about their experiences and frustrations, and then look at how you can adjust the work space to create a better flow.

Ensure when planning that shared tools have a designated place for storage so they are easily accessible when required.  Also have relevant departments set up close to those that are interconnected, and check that they have easy access to raw materials to establish material flow paths.

3. Have a maintenance plan in place

As each facility contains different machinery, a maintenance plan should be drawn up for factory specific needs.  Communicate and consult with employees to get their buy-in on what should be covered and how the plan should be run.  This will help your employees take responsibility for monitoring and maintaining their work space over neglecting the plan in favour of productivity. The maintenance plan can also include scheduled factory floor clean-ups and a shared tool stock take.

It’s also a good idea to hire a Maintenance Manager or have an employee take responsibility for the overall upkeep of this plan, to check the procedures are being followed when required.

4.  Empower and train your employees

Empowering your factory floor employee is a big trigger to increased responsibility, which in turn increases productivity.  Engage your employees, ask their opinion, encourage them to identify barriers and make suggestions that could improve their daily tasks.  Then take action on these suggestions so your employees feel valued.

Set up a mentoring program in your business, knowledge sharing will give employees some insight into the bigger picture, and help them to understand how their role can positively (or negatively) impact the entire process.

Train your employees to instil good habits. Offer training on how to run their machinery, how they are expected to perform their job function, what the escalation process is and teach them new skills.  This allows you to update the skills of your team and make sure that job function and processes are always top-of-mind.

5. Review your systems and processes

Take a look at your current systems and processes, understand how these are used and investigate how these can be improved or optimized.  Invest in technology where the return on investment (ROI) pays off, and use that technology to gain a competitive advantage in your industry.  

Keep your software current – working with the latest version of your software often presents newer features that display more efficient ways to achieve the end result, and take a look into how you can implement relevant automation.  Automation is a buzz word taking over the industry in recent years, and rightly so as it becomes more affordable and accessible.  Automating certain routine tasks can improve output while reducing waste and eliminating errors.

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