5 Must-Know Tips to Improve Your Manufacturing Management Processes

Which is worse, when your equipment breaks down, or your workforce breaks down?

Overseeing production at a manufacturing facility isn’t easy.

Planning and scheduling employees. Keeping an eye on efficiencies whether it’s through the equipment used, the floor layout, or in the workforce. Hitting quotas and benchmarks for overall production and quality. Inventory. Maintenance.

If it’s in the building, it’s under your management. That’s a huge umbrella. And to answer the question of which was worse, it’s…both.

Most managers in other sectors don’t have quite so much they’re responsible for. They manage employees, including their output and customer interaction. But if equipment is a headache, they call someone in. Other managers focus more on the equipment and maintenance. Manufacturing management is unique in that it’s all on your plate.

We know the manufacturing management process is challenging, which is why we want to share a few tips with you on how you can improve what you do, and even lighten the load a bit so managing is easier and more efficient. By the end of this article, you should have at least one—if not more—actionable steps to take towards staying on track.

#1: Gather data and use it

It is a universal truth that, without data, you’re making guesses, not decisions. 

This goes for any industry, especially manufacturing.

You can only plan and make valid decisions if you have the data to base them on. Using your “gut” as a rudder for management is a terrible idea.

Data tells you of good (or bad) trends. It lets you spot patterns you might not have seen except from a bird’s-eye-view. It can even alert you to gaps in your data as you try to use it to make decisions.

Think of the questions you want answers to, because they help you know what data you should be gathering. 

  • Where and when are we experiencing delays? 
  • What shifts are always a fight to fill? 
  • Where are manufacturing processes breaking down?
  • What machine is always being used at capacity? What process causes the longest wait times?
  • Is the data showing correlation or causation for issues that need fixing? 
  • Where are the areas of greatest efficiency, and where do we struggle?
  • Are overtime and/or payroll costs ruining the bottom line?

From bottlenecks to outdated procedures, you know what questions you need to ask. Collecting the data that answers them means talking to your team and using tools, some of which we’ll talk about later, to put quantifiable numbers on what’s happening. 

Data is what makes it possible for you to plan for anything. It also makes sudden change less likely to catch you off guard.

#2: Build in habits of success into your manufacturing management

Scheduled maintenance. Regular employee training. Periodic feedback. Methodical data gathering. Equipment upgrades.

These (and more) are the habits of success in the manufacturing management process. 

Find the things you can do that feed a path of growth and success. If you’re simply looking to hold onto the status quo, you’ll fare badly when change is necessary. By building habits of success, you’re basically starting the forward motion before you need it so that when the day arrives, you’re ready.

Employees are certified, enthusiastic, confident, and on the cutting edge. Your equipment is functioning with backup parts ready to fix as needed. As management, you ask for feedback to better understand what’s happening at each level and each area of the manufacturing facility.

If you wait to train at the last minute, it might be too late. Waiting to order common parts at the last minute, the supply chain snags may cost you. If you wait to get feedback when the culture’s already gone sour, it’s more work and more costly to fix.

Build the habits of success before you have to, so you never get to the place where you have to.

#3: Protect your employees

In manufacturing, we think of protecting employees as a physical safety issue.

That’s part of it, for sure, which is why there are so many safety standards you have to follow. But employee burnout is another concern, and that’s not as easy to spot and “fix” if you’re not proactive about heading it off.

Employee burnout causes stress, anxiety, anger, and weariness. Those all lead to unsafe conditions, poor morale, and high turnover. That high turnover leads to more employee burnout since fewer employees have to carry more of the workload. It’s an ugly snowball once it starts rolling.

Make employee burnout the top of your list when it comes to managing the human factor in the entire manufacturing management process. Work on creating a positive work culture in your manufacturing facility

Studies show that happy workers are 13% more productive. That means you’ll solve many problems at once, if you are mindful of when burnout is a real danger.

#4: Build flexibility into your schedule

Scheduling employees is probably one of the biggest challenges you have. 

Dealing with shifts that don’t have enough coverage, knowing when you’ll need to increase coverage, handling employee time-off requests—it’s very complicated, and you have to keep repeating the experience.

The thought of building flexibility into your schedule probably sounds like a nightmare. But it’s actually simple, if you use the right kind of time tracking and scheduling tools.

One of the reasons we built When I Work with so much flexibility is that we understood every employer has different needs when it comes to scheduling. For manufacturers, it’s about shift work, and also managing overtime so it doesn’t break the bank.

With flexible scheduling, you can create schedules faster by defining what each shift needs, including limits and requirements, rather than approaching it by defining everyone who is on each shift. Employees can choose the shifts they want to work, and can swap shifts directly with each other through the app. This kind of shift planning helps control labor costs and increase productivity.

Flexible scheduling is also a benefit to your employees, which matters in a tight labor market where it’s tough to find workers. The ability to have more say over your schedule is attractive to people who want a better work-life balance, and it’s a benefit that doesn’t cost you anything to offer. 

The extra bonus for building flexibility into your work schedule? 

You’ll be building a kind of flexibility into your production. While there are a lot of things that have to adjust to sudden market and demand changes, it’ll really help if you already have a scheduling approach that’s able to meet those shifting needs.

#5: Consider using automation in your manufacturing management

In a way, the flexible scheduling approach injects a little automation into your schedule as well. Instead of manually recreating it each time, you only need to create the structure and let employees choose within it.

Where else can you implement automation? What processes are you doing manually that you don’t have to? Not only does the manual approach leave room for human error, but it can also cost you in time and extra staff.

Time tracking is a good example. Are you relying on paper punch cards and manually entering the data later? How well has that worked as far as dealing with buddy punching, time theft, or excess overtime? 

When I Work integrates time tracking into its scheduling tool because it’s a critical part of managing employees. Automated time tracking can also connect directly into payroll to improve accuracy and save the time you spent doing data entry.

The best time to start, whether in looking at ways to automate, in building the habits of success, or how to improve manufacturing processes overall, is right now. Moving to an integrated and automated employee scheduling and time tracking system is a right step in that direction. You’ll save time and start generating useful data right away, making it easier to make some of these other changes to position your manufacturing plant for more success.