How to Standardize Production & Improve Efficiency
Operations are a constant challenge to observe, measure, analyze and make improvements in. The whole exercise becomes incredibly more meaningful when the improvements achieved can be reproduced in more than one area of activity within the same factory, or between similar plants or operations in different geographical areas. A key step to achieve that level of benefit is to standardize production in the planning stage. In other words set the foundation for better operational understanding and higher long term efficiency through design standardization. Looking at the following propositions is an opportunity to sit back, and take a wider view of the complete operational mechanism and take steps that will affect its overall performance.
Enhance Product Modularity
Product modularity is all about production and efficiency. By designing products with common core components and easily interchangeable parts that differentiate feel, look and functionality, manufacturing becomes more efficient. Mass produced core components are manufactured by standardized lines that have the opportunity to run at higher volumes, with fewer setups and therefore more efficiency. Components can be shared in "product platforms" and therefore be shared between product families and models. By bringing customization to the end of production lines, the shop floor is easier to organize and modify in the future.
By standardizing equipment by production function we inherently limit the demands we put on maintenance and specialized knowledge spread over many different machines. It is then much easier to duplicate machines, lines or complete plants, depending on how much business grows. Equipment standardization requires meticulous testing before purchase and the enforcement of internal rules to force purchasing to comply with the standardization rules. Needless to say that building strong and reliable relationships with equipment vendors is absolutely essential as frequent supplier switching can have catastrophic consequences for efficiencies and the smooth running of the operational chain.
Same QC for All
Standardizing quality control across organizations is another way of enforcing standardization and efficiency standards in production. Even for firms with activities across countries and continents with very different legislation and cultural traits, building a culture of homogeneous expectations is bringing the discussion back to homogeneous production activities. Quality control is a part of company culture and transplanting it successfully makes the standardization of factories, lines and machines much easier.
Build Communication Frameworks
Standardizing machines in the purchase stage is one thing. Keeping machines, lines and plants functioning at a similar efficiency or pace is another. For this reason communication between professionals in production, manufacturing and operations is critical. With higher standardization it is easier to transplant efficiency successes, especially in the fields of software and operational methodologies. Equally importantly, group experience can be particularly effective when brainstorming or troubleshooting over equipment commonly used by everybody.
Every large corporation or transplant success story contains a high level of production standardization together with the traits of product modularity, QC and communication mentioned above. Of course production standardization does not forbid customization. Fortunately, the transition to the digital factory has something significant to offer and this is the ability to make changes by exhausting the options offered by software before any time consuming and cumbersome hardware changes.