How to Improve Production in Manufacturing: The Ultimate Guide

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Inefficiencies are the bane of the manufacturing world. Regardless if a company is producing chemicals, wires and cables, or aerospace parts, issues like excessive material waste and lack of scalability are common nuisances that can have a major effect on profitability. Although operational managers may be aware of how these issues are impacting company figures, making changes isn’t always easy.

It is important to keep in mind these four goals when evaluating how a supply chain should be designed: capacity, responsiveness, costs, and flexibility. Additionally, when considering how to improve production in manufacturing, there are numerous factors to account for including:

  • Current workflow efficiency 
  • Variable cost structures
  • Hardware operational costs
  • Equipment reliability and ease of use
  • Material costs and waste
  • Overall product quality

When looking to make improvements, these considerations should align with the company’s goal— increase throughput while reducing both inventory and operating costs. Plant managers can spend days reviewing these elements, thinking of ways to lower costs and streamline processes. At InkJet, Inc., we have seen first-hand how difficult this process can be. Since our establishment in 1989, we have helped businesses across the manufacturing spectrum enhance their operations by offering the latest marking technologies and giving expert advice on how to improve workflows.

Here we have used our experience to identify how marking and coding can be a significant contributor to the key factors in reducing product defects to boosting throughput.

Automated labeling machinery at a warehouse

Minimize Waste With Automated Labeling Systems and Optimized Workflows

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Every year, production waste and discarded product packaging constitute a significant portion of the world’s total MSW (municipal solid waste). According to reports from both the US’s Environmental Protection Agency and The World Bank, waste generation has grown exponentially in recent decades. Today, the world generates around 2 billion tons of MSW every year, a total that has influenced many consumers to prefer companies that utilize sustainable business practices.

Economically speaking, production waste can also drain company profits. Although a certain amount of waste is an inevitable byproduct of manufacturing, companies can take specific steps to minimize scrap related to shipping and product packaging. We recommend the following actions:

  • Replace physical labels with automated printing: To comply with supply chain regulations, manufacturers of all sectors must place a variety of traceable codes on their products. Markings like barcodes, expiration dates, batch codes, and serial numbers all help foster traceability, promote quality assurance, and aid in recalls. Although physical stick-on labels are an easy way to achieve code compliance, their backings invariably create significant waste. By replacing stick-on labels with automated prints from a continuous inkjet (CIJ) printer or thermal inkjet (TIJ)  printer, companies can reduce their level of scrap while still complying with supply chain regulations.
  • Optimize shipping space by implementing packing best practices: Discarded shipping cartons are a major contributor to the world’s overall MSW. Not only do these boxes often end up in landfills, but they can also end up costing companies significant amounts of money if they are used inefficiently. An analysis of holding costs, inventory levels, shipping costs, and material costs may show that it is more economical to have a greater variation of box sizes by:
    • Stocking a wide range of boxes with different dimensions to complement varying product sizes.
    • Establishing a packing system that matches each product to an ideal carton size. Having a quick reference sheet will help maximize shipping space and cut down on wasted boxes.
    • Having marking equipment that can accommodate box size variations; this will be key in implementing a larger variation of packaging sizes.
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Lower Variable Costs With Automated Systems

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All businesses aim to have the largest profit margins possible. Although in many minds “higher sales = higher profit,” this isn’t always the best approach to improving one’s margins. For instance, if sales increase too much, it can upend established workflows and lead to unforeseen cost increases related to labor, materials, and other logistics. A more reliable way of quickly increasing profit margins is to lower variable costs

Variable costs are expenses closely tied to production volume. Fixed costs, like rent, salaries, and insurance, remain unchanged if a company increases its output. Conversely, variable costs like raw materials and manual labor will often fluctuate in relation to production level adjustments. By taking steps to reduce variable costs, companies can improve their profit margins without increasing sales.

 

One of the most reliable ways to lower variable costs is to automate tasks previously completed through manual labor. While salaried employees are budgeted as a fixed cost, the cost of manual labor changes with production needs. To use hand-labeling as an example, when product output increases, hand-labeling becomes exponentially more expensive due to:

  1. The process taking longer to complete (i.e., more hourly labor to account for).
  2. Requiring more personnel to complete the task.

Automated systems eliminate these increases in manual labor costs. While the cost of printing consumables (i.e., inks or ink ribbons) may increase, manual labor needs won’t change. In response to increasing ink costs, companies can also lower these expenses by seeking out cost-effective aftermarket supplies that perform just as well as their original equipment manufacturer (OEM) counterparts.

 

A man performing industrial maintenance
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Operational cost vs. profit graph

Industrial Material Marking

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Construction materials like metal pipes, electrical cables, and lumber are frequently marked with company logos, production time stamps, and scannable barcodes to prevent counterfeiting and to ensure traceability. While these markings are common in the industry, applying them isn’t always easy. 

Producing wires, cables, pipes, or lumber typically requires continuous line movement, sometimes at high speeds. The facilities that produce these materials are often dusty and hot, leading to potential work stoppages if any equipment isn’t durably built. To protect your operation from the expensive downtime and excessive waste associated with line interruptions, you need an industrial coding solution that is built for continuous coding and is built to last. 

We help manufacturers meet these requirements by offering the DuraCode continuous inkjet printer. This industrial marking system offers:

  • Continuous printing up to 1050 ft/min with 24/7 operation. 
  • Some environmental resistance, due to the model’s IP55 certified stainless steel construction.
  • Simple usability, as the DuraCode is operated either through an intuitive touch-screen or keyboard interface

For slower extrusions processes requiring high-res printing, we recommend Precision Series high-resolution case coding printers

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Reduce Errors Through Streamlined Quality Assurance Measures

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Nonconforming products (NCPs) are defined by the FDA as “products that do not fulfill their specified requirements.” These requirements vary based on the specific product, and accordingly, nonconformity can occur for a variety of reasons. Common issues include:

  • Incorrect product dimensions
  • Compromised materials/components
  • Misapplied codes/labels

If allowed to enter the supply chain, NCPs can cause a range of costly issues. In many cases, the manufacturer may need to perform extensive product recalls or pay fines. In the most extreme cases, NCPs could even violate contract conditions, leading to business relationship termination.

 

Accordingly, taking steps to enhance quality assurance is highly recommended to those searching for how to improve production in manufacturing. Successful approaches include:

  • Utilizing a Defect Detection Systems on the production line: Defect Detection Systems enable companies to automatically verify that products meet established standards while they’re still in production. Using sensors and advanced cameras, Defect Detection Systems streamline the quality assurance process to guarantee that each product is both built with the right dimensions and is outfitted with properly applied, machine-readable codes.
  • Using an integrated labeling system to reduce coding mistakes: Misapplied, incorrect codes are a common cause of product nonconformity. Integrated labeling systems help counter this issue by reducing the possibility of human error in the label application process. Through full IT system connectivity, integrated labelers allow users to pull label information directly from a larger data network and format it in a simplified manner, ensuring that all label data is correctly formed.
  • Adopting kick-out line technologies to automatically discard NCPs: Once a nonconforming product is identified, one must isolate it from the conforming products as soon as possible. Kick-out technologies perform this task automatically. Using hardware pieces like swipe arms and pressurized air blowers, kick-out systems remove the NCP from the line and place it in a contained area for proper documentation and disposal.
Worker performing quality assurance tasks
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Scalability Icon

Support Company Growth With Scalable Equipment

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Growing a business isn’t a simple process, especially in the manufacturing field. When a manufacturing company decides to expand its operations, there are a number of factors that must be considered to avoid the unintended consequences of increased output (e.g., inconsistent product quality, more frequent hardware failure, increased variable costs, etc.). To avoid these problems, many companies invest in scalable equipment

Companies with a high degree of scalability can quickly adjust production to meet market demands without sacrificing product quality or taking on significant costs. For this level of flexibility, the proper equipment is key. Businesses that use the Anser X1 thermal inkjet printer, for instance, are able to ramp up production at a streamlined pace. 

Not only is the Anser X1 able to mark substrates at CIJ-level speeds, but it’s also able to command two production lines at the same time. With these robust abilities, users can increase their coding output two-fold at a moment’s notice.

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Want to Know How to Improve Production in Manufacturing? Call InkJet, Inc. For Personal Guidance

Improving manufacturing productivity is a multi-step process that takes time to both strategize and implement. Workflows must be reevaluated, equipment may need to be improved, and everything from material inputs to printing consumables should be examined for price effectiveness. With all of these different factors to consider, it’s important to have an expert like InkJet, Inc. to help.

Equipped with decades of industry experience and a diverse portfolio of printing supplies, the team at InkJet, Inc. is here to support all manufacturing looking to improve their operations. Call InkJet, Inc. today to learn how we can help you.

To learn more about how to improve production in manufacturing, contact us online today or call (800) 280-3245.

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