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5 steps to improving manufacturing operations

Set realistic, measurable goals for your manufacturing operations to improve overall efficiency.

Energy and operational efficiency, as well as sustainability, are making their way up corporate agendas throughout the world. Yet many manufacturers still lack visibility of the energy output and performance of critical devices running in their plants.

Improving energy efficiency will come as a result of improving overall manufacturing operations. Follow these five steps to make efficiency improvements and save costs.

Step 1: Get buy-in from the rest of the business

Getting buy-in is a critical first step and must involve everyone form the C-Suite through to the shop technicians. Detail the problem and business need, supporting it with statistics and data. Involve the team in creating a  resolution that improves processes, develops corporate culture, and shows sustainable ROI.

Step 2: Set achievable goals

To improve manufacturing operations and cut costs, companies must set specific and measurable goals. Goals should be based on real data from systems and devices used within the manufacturing process. Ideally, the data will outline energy performance and where efficiencies can be made.

 Step 3: Monitor devices

Advances in technology can help manufacturers to monitor their plants more effectively and accurately. Applying smart sensors to machinery and equipment can help to improve visibility of energy consumption. With capabilities such as real-time notifications that alert users to a system fault or potential downtime, manufacturers can make informed decisions about management and consumption.

 Up-to-date information from smart monitoring enables system wide improvements to be made. Manufacturers can increase the efficiency of systems and optimize their maintenance schedules. This combination improves operational efficiencies and helps ensure streamlined production processes and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

 Effective use of intelligent technologies, such as smart sensors and monitors, can boost annual manufacturing value added by up to $530 billion over current trends by 2025.

 Step 4: Improve maintenance schedules

Use aggregated energy data to find systemic issues relevant to energy-intensive production assets. Optimize maintenance schedules with heavy energy consumption to take advantage of lower energy costs during off-peak hours.

 Transitioning from preventative maintenance of equipment to predictive maintenance can also lead to efficiency gains. Costs can be saved as equipment is less likely to fail and any issues are identified ahead of time. This will save costs, staff resources, and operational downtime.

Step 5: Empower employees

Establish commitment, support and participation from employees in the bid to improve operational efficiency and reduce energy consumption. Engaged employees understand that financial, environmental, and social issues are connected, and believe their organization is addressing all three. Empower employees by arming them with information about the negative impacts of poor energy efficiency, make them aware of the positive effects of their behavior, and celebrate  their successes.

 Dulas, a co-operative renewable energy firm, provides a great example of employee engagement. Faced with government cuts to their incentives, the business felt employee engagement would be a way to challenge this and ensure survival. This engagement led to innovative product ideas, including a solar powered charging port.

Can a five-step plan really improve manufacturing operations?

This five-step plan is just a valuable start. As you assess your manufacturing plant, its performance and its energy consumption, you may need to take a different path that resolves its individual needs. If you run multiple sites and complex operations, efficiency can be gained by streamlining your processes. Perhaps you’re part of a family-run plant where everyone is already bought in and engaged, making your area of focus more process driven.

There are multiple ways to improve manufacturing operations and cut costs. Use this plan as your basis but don’t be afraid to go on from there. Fulfill your potential and become an operationally efficient manufacturing business.

Learn more about our Energy Insight solution here and more about our approach to Manufacturing here.

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