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Manufacturing professionals often wonder about the best ways to improve industrial production. They know succeeding will help them stay competitive as the market remains challenging. Here are some areas to strongly consider for enhancing the production environment in numerous meaningful ways.
Focus on Supply Chain Sustainability to Achieve Resiliency
Something important to keep in mind is that there’s no single, guaranteed path for strengthening industrial production outcomes. However, ramping up sustainability efforts in supply chains can be an excellent starting point that brings resiliency. That was something executives knew well, as evidenced by how they responded to a 2022 EY survey about their sustainability efforts.
The results showed 61% chose cost savings as the top motivator for more sustainable supply chains. Then, 51% indicated better sustainability would help them comply with regulators. However, it’s easy to see how both these hoped-for benefits also support resilience.
For example, if a supply chain can run efficiently for less money, the people overseeing it will have more financial resources to use when things get challenging. Similarly, when those parties can operate without regulatory scrutiny, they’ll remain resilient due to not facing hefty fines or reputational damage.
Figures also cited in the EY report noted how improved sustainability in supply chains had already caused enhanced efficiency and productivity for 31% of respondents. Then, 23% reported noticing higher profits, and 20% said they had a better handle on operational risks. These takeaways emphasize that a resilient and sustainable supply chain can bring benefits people don’t necessarily expect or anticipate.
Most importantly, people should not necessarily try to aim for improved sustainability and resilience at the same time. As these statistics show, people can get great results by emphasizing sustainability first. They’re then highly likely to achieve various improvements, which will combine to make supply chains more resilient.
Consider How Automation Could Support Industrial Production
Many executives find it difficult to find and retain the labor force members they need to keep industrial production running smoothly in their facilities. Although there’s no quick fix for that common problem, leaders often find the key is to strategically invest in automated solutions that can support their existing workforces.
Mobile robots are popular possibilities, particularly when people want to streamline how they move supplies, products or other essentials between two points. In one case, a solar panel manufacturer purchased 63 automated mobile robots (AMR). Those machines allowed the company to eliminate its manual handling procedures, which enabled employees to focus on other duties. Besides the increased productivity they enjoyed, workers became safer.
Automation can also occur when industrial leaders purposefully collect specific types of data to avoid unwanted scenarios. Some facility managers do that by using Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to gather information about operating parameters for critical equipment. When people know about machine problems before failures happen, they can act to prevent outages that would otherwise halt production.
Amazon has a product called Lookout for Equipment that automatically gets operating data from machinery. Then, users can review it at their convenience, checking for abnormalities. The primary benefit of using IoT sensors to stay on top of maintenance is that they can detect issues humans would otherwise miss. Industrial production can grind to a halt when unexpected failures occur. But, the more visibility someone has, the better equipped they are to stop those incidents.
Become More Data-Dependent
Relying on data in industrial production means more than installing IoT sensors on specific pieces of machinery. That’s a start, but people should ideally not stop there. When industrial manufacturers become data-driven companies, they should experience numerous production-related benefits.
Consider the results of a 2022 global survey that asked people for their views on the importance of data. The findings revealed that 62% of those polled believed controlling and deriving value from their data were strategically important to their organizations’ success. However, the study’s participants have significant work to do to meet those goals.
They had to describe their data-maturity levels on a five-point scale, with five being the highest. The findings indicated 37% of people were on level three, which means they get insights from data. Another 17% had become data-centric by being on level four. However, it’s worrying that only 3% had achieved the highest level of data maturity.
The respondents recognized several shortcomings stemming from data immaturity, however. Sales-based limitations were reported by 30% of respondents, while 28% said low levels of data maturity restricted innovation at their companies. Moreover, 24% said data immaturity stopped their companies from providing advanced customer experiences.
There were other areas for improvement, too. For example, only 28% of respondents said the provision of data-driven products or services is part of their company strategy. Additionally, just 13% of those polled have made their company’s data strategy a key part of its corporate strategy.
Investigate How to Improve Worker Safety and Satisfaction
Any industrial production goal a decision-maker sets cannot feasibly get met without dedicated employees. Workers are more likely to stay with companies longer and enjoy their experiences there if they feel happy with the work and safe while doing it.
The methods for achieving better worker safety and satisfaction can be as high or low-tech as a company leader prefers. For example, researchers at the University of Cincinnati are hunting for the perfect exosuit to prevent or reduce back strain during strenuous tasks. Those wearable devices could keep workers safer. But so could something much simpler, such as cleaning up the workplace so it’s less cluttered and contains no unnecessary hazards.
When workers feel confident they work in a continually safe environment, that sentiment will go a long way in making them generally like their jobs. Other things influence job satisfaction, too, of course. Maybe a specific company pays significantly higher than its competitors and offers two additional paid time-off days. Those are perks that could make people realize they have great employers and want to stay with them for the long term.
Another thing to remember is that welcoming feedback can be a meaningful strategy. Many people in industrial production environments may initially feel their sole approach is to keep their heads down and not question anything or even speak up about their concerns. However, that kind of silence can become dangerous. Create a user-friendly system where people can report things that make them feel unsafe — even anonymously.
It’s also important that people feel heard and see the results of their feedback. If they mention things and never see people in authority taking action, they won’t feel it’s worthwhile to try again.
Start Setting Goals to Enhance Industrial Production Today
The goals you set will vary according to your specific industrial production environment. However, the ones mentioned above are some of those most likely to get notable results. No matter which a company chooses, decision-makers must remember that changes won’t happen overnight, and they’ll need to be patient to see the full results.
Emily Newton is a technology and industrial journalist and the Editor in Chief of Revolutionized. She manages the sites publishing schedule, SEO optimization and content strategy. Emily enjoys writing and researching articles about how technology is changing every industry. When she isn't working, Emily enjoys playing video games or curling up with a good book.