For most manufacturers, increased productivity means increased profit. We recently read an article from Electrek titled “Tesla now operates the most productive car factory in the US,” and it got our wheels turning. We’ve been considering what productivity is, what it means, and what you can do about it in this series of posts.

When considering the best practices that can help you improve your productivity, you have likely already heard of lean, flexible, and agile manufacturing. They are sometimes used interchangeably as they both lead to productivity and efficiency gains, but they are actually very different.

Lean manufacturing creates value by reducing eight types of waste – transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, overprocessing, defects, and unutilized talent. To simplify, if you are a lean manufacturer your goal is to use every bit of space, talent, and time to the fullest capacity, while reducing unnecessary steps and wait times. There are more details that go into each aspect, but this working definition will help us compare. The benefit is internal improvements in both productivity and overall efficiency, though lean does not address external or market factors (i.e. competitors, market fluctuations, etc).

Flexible manufacturing is the ability to easily adapt equipment, including your machines and computer systems, to produce many different parts at any production level, all on the same line. The benefit of equipment flexibility is also efficiency improvements, though the initial equipment costs tend to be higher as it must be designed to meet your specific goals.

Agile manufacturing is a way of thinking that allows an organization to respond quickly to changes, and therefore create more value for customers. The tenets of agile manufacturing include delivering rapid iterations of products and processes more frequently to make constant improvements; flexibility and the willingness to make changes and quickly adapt; a bottom-up structure that encourages employees to speak up to help make improvements; and cross-functional, parallel problem solving to ensure solutions are reached and tested quickly.

At Wes-Tech, we believe strongly in the power of agile manufacturing.

Tougher markets and scarcity of resources have pushed manufacturers to continually improve performance while reducing costs. If you build in the ability to quickly adapt to changing markets by designing flexible equipment, and you also consider ways to consistently improve even when changing gears, you will be positioned well to keep moving when you hit a roadblock. Using the best practices of agile manufacturing, including rapid iterations, bottom-up thinking, and parallel problem solving, you can be prepared to meet changes as they come.

When you are looking to make genuine business improvements, it’s important to partner with someone you can trust. Wes-Tech keeps you at the forefront of productivity and efficiency advancements by implementing best practices across manufacturing automation. When you need a partner who can help you drive towards higher productivity, on time and in budget, we’re here for you.

(That’s it for this series of posts, but if you missed it, here’s a link to the first post, and a link to the second post in the series.)

Team Wes-Tech

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