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How can a manufacturing business improve productivity?

In 2022, productivity is more important than ever, as manufacturers face new challenges and a changing market. Global material shortages, national labour shortages and increasing cost of transport have caused a dramatic shift in what’s important to the modern consumer. They’re no longer interested in trying to maximise their value for money, but instead want things done as soon as possible—and they’re willing to pay for it.

Lead times for many furniture, manufacturing and specifically cabinet making businesses are approaching—even exceeding—12 months. Getting things done faster, and increasing your company’s output is more important than ever. There’s money on the table and whoever can produce most efficiently, wins it.

In this article, we’ll explore how improving workplace culture is the key to staff productivity, and how to improve processes in a scientific, data-driven way. We’ll also touch on the unique challenges facing the modern manufacturing business, how to overcome them using modern tools and systems, and why focusing on time and material waste reduction is far more important than chasing raw speed.

1. The connection between culture, accountability and employee productivity.

With the understanding that productivity can be defined as your company’s output for a given period of time, the obvious solution to improving it is to simply work faster or more efficiently, thereby getting more done in that period of time. However, simply demanding staff work faster, harder, take shorter breaks and make less mistakes is likely to damage your workplace culture—resulting in more mistakes, employee churn and low morale.

Great workplace culture is the key to employee productivity, and it starts with accountability. When staff time is logged against what they’re meant to be doing, and this data is prominently available to the wider team—extended toilet breaks, idle chatting and gossiping, foot dragging and slacking magically starts to disappear.

Implementing systems to monitor employee performance is not only a time-saver, removing the need for managers looking over shoulders, but a much more fair and transparent system. Measuring staff against the same standards removes any ideas of favouritism and builds a united team.

There are many great tools on the market specifically designed for manufacturing businesses to monitor employee time, and this is a staple feature of a great Enterprise Resource Planner (ERP).

Equally as important as time-tracking, is clear goal-setting. Generally, staff want to be good at their jobs. They want to take pride in their work, but to do this they need the appropriate tools, systems and measures of success. By ensuring staff know exactly what tasks are coming, what their goals are, and how they’re currently performing, they can be focussed, driven and productive.

When employees are invested in their work and driven to succeed, they will look for ways to organise themselves in a more optimal way, and suggest ways to achieve their goals more effectively. Fostering this and providing employees with the tools they need is the key to building a great culture that innovates, strives for efficiency and embraces “the company’s” vision.

2. Take a transparent, data-driven approach to process improvement.

We talked about time tracking for accountability, but having that information readily available has far more uses than just improving workplace culture. Reporting is a pivotal function of quality workplace process improvement, whereby you evaluate estimated time against the actual time taken for a particular job or process. To achieve better productivity, start by comparing your quoted time per stage of a job, against how long it actually took, then find out why it has differed.

The goal of process improvement is to minimise waste, not simply shave time off existing processes without a good reason. To do this effectively, you must have quality data and reporting to identify where this waste is occurring. The goal is to make your employee’s workflow smoother, eliminate unnecessary steps and understand how things can be done faster.

Utilise reporting to analyse your processes and to reveal wastage in the form of over-allocated resources, mistakes, unnecessary movement and identify where you’ve underquoted or undercharged.

Mistakes are one of the most costly factors when it comes to waste, and are particularly unaffordable in the modern, time-sensitive market. They normally happen when employees are under pressure, which of course is a time when you can least afford them. Time spent fixing mistakes can’t be recaptured, and have a compounding effect due to the lost time, lost resources, time needed to catch up and work that could have been done if the mistake never happened at all.

Lack of processes and information, poor adherence to those processes and haste due to poor planning, scheduling or trying to fulfil unrealistic promises are the three leading factors of mistakes. With the right workplace systems and tools, all of these factors can be eliminated. Logged time, clearly documented processes, centralised information and a culture that fosters learning and self-improvement are the key to preventing mistake wastage.

In 2022, good use of software is helping manufacturing businesses get ahead. A good ERP can not only log time, make information readily available to employees and streamline your processes, but also help to literally find more hours in a day. ERP software with advanced job scheduling can help to organise tasks and priorities in time-saving ways. This can reveal that a team previously thought to be ‘at capacity’ is, in fact, not at capacity at all.

Efficiency is about small gains in many areas, and by utilising tools that help you look at individual functions and the broader day-to-day system, these gains will compound into massive improvements of your bottom line.

Taking a data driven approach to processes could reveal that your senior cabinet maker James is losing hours every week looking for the correct material, or walking back and forth from different machines, or constantly having to answer questions like “what’s the ETA on Job #4576?” or “have you got enough Jarrah to finish this week’s allotment?”. With the right processes and software, you could have the answers to those questions without James having to take out his ear plugs.
If you’re employing world class cabinet makers, get the most value from their time, skills and experience by having them do world class cabinet making. Which leads on to the third step of this simple process.

3. Better utilise your workforce skills and talents with software automations.

We talked about time tracking for accountability, but having that information readily available has far more uses than just improving workplace culture. Reporting is a pivotal function of quality workplace process improvement, whereby you evaluate estimated time against the actual time taken for a particular job or process. To achieve better productivity, start by comparing your quoted time per stage of a job, against how long it actually took, then find out why it has differed.

The majority of workplace systems have evolved organically, and consist of numerous smaller systems that have been jury-rigged to work together. This approach often leads to double data entry, which not only wastes time, but causes mistakes and a lack of accountability. A cobbled-together system approach often leads to communication breakdown between departments, steps in a process and the end customer. These mistakes can negatively affect your entire operation, cause undue stress to your employees and damage your reputation in the market.

By implementing a business-wide software system, know in real time where jobs are at, make fast adjustments to estimated delivery times, and keep everyone involved in a project updated when unforeseen delays occur. Company wide software can also allow you to automate steps of the process, saving time and wasted motion. Push updates, reschedules and inventory requests to the relevant points of contact faster than ever before.

When you’re investing in your team, training and hiring talented employees, it should be your focus to utilise their time as effectively as possible. If skilled tradesmen are spending time communicating with stakeholders on where projects are at, searching the warehouse for materials or filling out resource & inventory requests, their talents are being wasted. ERP software can help to understand just how much of this talent-wastage your business is suffering from, and you might find you don’t need to hire another cabinet maker after all.

In closing, make smart, data-driven decisions to improve workplace culture, processes and ultimately, productivity and profitability.

The market today has terrific options that manufacturing companies all around the world are using to reach higher productivity levels through reduced wastage, a more motivated and involved workplace, more accurate quoting and streamlined inventory management.

We truly believe that for the modern manufacturing business, Jobman ERP Software is the best offering on the market. We’ve designed our software from the ground up, with a background in productivity and software implementation and integration in cabinet making businesses across Australia. For more than 10 years, our founding director travelled Australia working with hundreds of cabinet makers to improve their productivity and profitability, and solve the problems holding them back.

Jobman ERP is a distillation of everything learnt in that time. It’s a cloud-based ERP with local training and support that enables lean manufacturing without ever having to attend a seminar, workshop or spend countless dollars on a business consultant. Its core feature set includes time tracking, job management and scheduling, quoting and customer relationship management. Maybe more importantly, it can also help make going to work more pleasant for all, and pave the way to a more profitable business.

Contact us to book a call today, and let us show you just how much you can improve your bottom line, your total output and employee happiness. The best bit is that these changes aren’t going to take a year to see, with our highly refined training and implementation methodology, you’ll see a transformed business in as little as 6 weeks. Ready to get started?

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