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How Process Improvement Can Increase Manufacturing Productivity

Process improvement is a helpful tool that manufacturing facilities can use to streamline work processes and increase productivity. Productivity is measured by the output that is generated (product) for each unit of input (time). Increasing productivity results in a facility achieving more output in the same amount of time. Increasing productivity is a major goal important to the bottom line of most manufacturing facilities. Therefore, most manufacturing facilities can benefit from focusing on process improvement.
The major goal of process improvement in this application is to eliminate waste and identify bottlenecks in production processes. Every process within a facility, no matter how simple or complex, can benefit from thorough analysis and improvement. Steps and activities that do not add any value are removed, saving time and energy while achieving the same output. This is especially important in a manufacturing environment where most process steps are highly repetitive. Identifying and eliminating just one unnecessary step in a process can result in a profound increase in productivity due to repetition.
Process improvement is done with the goal of making things better. A good question to ask yourself is this: Am I solving problems or improving processes? The process improvement mindset is a shift for many managers and executives who are in a reactive mindset of solving problems as they occur rather than identifying and prevent problems before they happen. However, focus on process improvement is more beneficial because it is permanent. Simplification of facility-wide processes can prevent problems and free up time and resources in the future.
Various methodologies are used in process improvement including analyzing and redesigning workspaces, material assessments, designing workflows, process mapping and Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycles. The methodologies are used in a team environment with a clearly defined scope and unform data collection procedures. Data on existing processes is collected and then used to re-design processes in a way that maximizes productivity and streamlines production. Processes are then standardized and outcomes are measured.
Process improvement is a continuous effort on the part of process owners as well as operators. Although we often tend to focus on solving urgent problems and are hesitant to make changes, manufactures should prioritize process improvement as a part of day-to-day operations in order to achieve maximum productivity.

Sources:
2010 American Society for Quality Handbook for Basic Process Improvement
L:\WILDCAT\TQLPUB\BPIHNDBK.WPD (asq.org)
“Are You Solving Problems or Improving Processes?” BizManualz
Are You Solving Problems or Improving Processes? (bizmanualz.com)

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