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How to know if your plant needs an improvement program

If your profits are low or you are seeing an increase in your product defects, it may be time to implement an improvement program. There are several ways to identify if it is time to implement an improvement program; here are few common clues to watch for:

  • High employee turnover. Problems retaining employees that have expertise in manufacturing.
  • Decline in partnerships with other companies or an inability to get in touch with the other companies.
  • Decrease in production
  • Product recalls
  • Product defects and variations
  • Accident claims filed against the company
  • Employees that are performing multiple job duties
  • Inability to focus on the productivity of the company and an inability to remain competitive
  • Machinery malfunctions and costly repairs
  • Unhappy employees
  • When you are told that the plant is operating at its full capacity but you know there is room for improvement.

If you notice any of the above things happening at your manufacturing plant, it is time to introduce an improvement program. If you are not sure where to start, consider hiring a consulting firm to come in and assess your company. They will be able to offer tips on how you can improve your current processes with small changes. These changes can include something as simple as behavior-based safety or something extensive like the Toyota Production System.

You need to identify the areas that you want to improve. Determine what the strengths and weaknesses are within your manufacturing plant and where you want to spend most of your time. Once you can properly identify the problems within the manufacturing plant, it will be easier to choose a good improvement plan.

Always take a look at your budget. Decide how much money you are willing to invest in the improvement plan. You can easily cut some costs by taking a look at your operational costs. Are you spending too much money on energy? Can you afford to convert to renewable energy sources? Take a look at your cash-flow situation. Are you spending more money that you are making? Do you have enough money to cover the operating costs if your customers are not paying their bills in a timely manner? Once you determine where you can cut some costs, start looking at ways to raise your profits.

Are your machines working to their full capacity? How often are the machines maintained? How old are the machines? Are they prone to manufacturing defects? Should you consider selling your machines and leasing newer machines? The product you are producing needs to satisfy the customers needs. If the machines are causing the problem, start looking for newer ones. Even if you are manufacturing a cheap product, it needs to fit the expectations of the customer in order to be considered a quality product.

If you still aren't convinced you need to implement an improvement program, turn to your customers. Ask your customers how they feel about your products. Go online to look for consumer complaints and find out why orders have been returned or cancelled. Speak to your employees that deal directly with the customers and ask them why customers are returning products. If you notice a common reason, like poor quality, you need to implement an improvement program.

Improvement programs not only help you address the issues with product quality but it also helps the entire company look for ways to make the manufacturing process run smoother. Involve your employees in the decision to implement an improvement program. Employees that feel valued and involved in the company decisions are likely to stay with the company longer because they feel what they say and do makes a difference.

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