Manufacturing companies are continually looking for new ways to streamline their complex production processes. They want, wherever possible, to maximize efficiency, get more done with the resources they have available, and create savings in time and money. Productivity and profitability must also be allowed to grow. Given the challenges, how can businesses go about driving the changes they’re looking for?

Improve communication
Teams from different disciplines within an organization work more efficiently together if they engage in regular, committed communication. Efforts can be more effectively combined, empowering product development and speeding the transformation of new ideas into market-ready products.

Sales personnel need to work together with the production side of the business to correctly identify and respond to trends and changes in buyer behavior, to identify which products are and are not selling well, and highlight in time which forecasts need to be adapted. These skills are the key to running a successful order-driven production environment. As such, close co-operation between sales and the shop floor ensures promises made to customers can be delivered upon.

One of the best ways to support communication between the various teams within one operation is to make use of the right technology. Modern IT communication systems (e.g. MS Lync for video calling and instant chat) support easy interaction regardless of location and can underpin major improvements in operational efficiency, process flow and lead time reduction.

Manage quality
An effective quality control strategy focuses not only on BOMs, but the steps within the entire manufacturing process and the time required for each part of the production cycle. Only by properly understanding the flows involved can manufacturers look to drive improvements and run a leaner setup – reducing waste by ensuring that they use materials in the appropriate quantities for the work they are engaged in.

To improve quality, it’s important to invest in mobile technology and analysis solutions. An ERP-analysis tool will help businesses to get their information direct from the shop floor in real time, allowing them to respond to any situation in the shortest possible time. A number of vendors now offer business intelligence tools that can be intergrated with existing business software. Their dashboards and user-friendly interfaces make large volumes of information easy to access and interpret.

With the right data in the right timeframe, a problem in a manufacturing process that has led to a failed or damaged product can be addressed by management before it gets out of hand. If a production manager is receiving continual updates via a mobile device, he’s empowered to head for the site of the issue, armed with the right information, and fix the issue at its source.

Collect and utilize data
Technology able to measure and analyze material usage has become a must, as has an efficient way to track times involved at each stage of the macro production process. To make this approach a reality, it’s essential for the manufacturing data to be accurately recorded and archived. Carefully reviewing the chain of historical information for a repeating process gives companies the best chance to accurately pin down where improvements can be made to save time and costs in the future.

‘Big data’ is also becoming important here, more and more companies tackling huge volumes of data in an effort to uncover new insights that can stimulate operational improvements. Businesses looking to set up optimal IT environments should think carefully about investing in solutions that will enable them to take advantage of this growing trend. It will only become more important in helping businesses identify the increasingly fine margins for productivity and profitability improvement that exist within their operations.

Direct results
In short, the streamlining of production processes can be carried out most effectively by embracing the right quality programs and technological support from the word go, by ensuring that sales, manufacturing and IT sit on one line of communication, and by investing in data collection and analysis to ensure the wastage of time and materials is kept to an absolute minimum. The combination of these three approaches is an excellent base from which to realize the improvements in performance that can directly impact your top and bottom line.