We all know time is money when it comes to business. This especially holds true in manufacturing environments. The time to get products to customers, delays in production, downtime, and uptime…every second of a manufacturing operation can be translated into a dollar amount. In this blog post, we’ll be discussing one of the simplest yet most important time-based metrics, throughput, and how to maximize the metric to increase profitability for your operations.

Throughput = Units Produced / Time

Essentially,  throughput is a way to measure the effectiveness of your entire production line from the start, with raw materials entering the production process to completion, end products delivered to customers. It represents the rate of output and allows quantification of the speed at which products are developed. 

Why Throughput Matters

Throughput performance in operations impacts the ability to meet quotas, on time-deliveries, and revenue targets thus, poor throughput affects profitability and increases the risk of losing customers to competitors.

With our 20 years of experience implementing smart factory technology and production best practices throughout many verticles in the manufacturing industry, we know the majority of production lines are underperforming on this metric with missed opportunities to improve throughput by an additional 15%, at a minimum. What would a 15 % throughput improvement look like for your operations?

Although many manufacturers measure throughput in some way today the reason production lines underperform is mainly to the granularity of the data and the effort it requires to collect. In order to maximize the amount of product coming off of your line on a shift by shift basis, a strategic approach to measuring productivity with the right IIoT smart factory technology is a must. 

Some ways to improve throughput with IIoT smart factory technology include:

Automate Data Collection

Manufacturers need to consider the throughput of individual machines as well as the throughput of the entire line – this is what determines whether or not you meet your production goals and this data is often missing. In many cases, lost throughput is primarily due to people and process inefficiency and not just machine problems.

Throughput time is more than just an overall measurement. It’s sub-metrics consists of: 

  • Processing – Time taken for specific processes on lines
  • Inspection – Time spent on quality control and making sure that materials are in the right place; 
  • Moving Materials – Measuring how often materials are transported between workstations 
  • Queuing – Time spent waiting for each of the above to get started (downtime)

With this granular approach, accurate, automated, and real-time data collection is needed around all of the above. This is where reliable technology such as an IIoT smart factory platform comes into play. Automating and standardizing routine data collection on a shift by shift basis with smart factory technology allows for greater insights into areas of production where time is wasted and allows for action planning to reduce the time from raw goods to end product.  

Reduce Machine Downtime

Reducing machine downtime through smart factory technology is central to improve throughput. Think about the last unplanned machine downtime you had. How long did it last and what caused the breakdown? With every minute that passes during a machine downtime, there is a domino effect on several areas outside of just the impacted machines that contribute to a decrease in throughput rate. 

True smart factory software offers the ability to monitor processes and notify maintenance when to perform key preventative maintenance and over time built-in preventative maintenance functionality anticipates maintenance requirements for machines on the factory floor.

By connecting to every single asset in your production line, preventative maintenance functionality allows workers to analyze the operational data from each machine to identify any patterns that emerge to predict when maintenance will be required on any given equipment. Whereas in the past, manufacturers would rely on reactive maintenance, many companies are starting to take this proactive approach to maintenance for improved uptime and production which allows them to remain competitive. 

For example, Shoplogix preventative maintenance functionality has the ability to run reports to determine how much usage a machine or tool has. It can track a determined threshold…such as every 1000 reps or 50,000 parts and monitor the pulse of the machine when it reaches those thresholds to determine if maintenance work needs to be done.

Reduce Part Rejection Rate

In some cases, manufacturers may have a high output rate, but fail to meet throughput goals. This is due to high part rejection rates in operations.  For example, if a line produces around 1000 parts per hour but has a 30% rejection rate, that’s 300 wasted parts per hour! 

The best way to reduce part rejection rate is to eliminate production processes that damage parts. Working with smart factory technology allows for greater quality control to reduce rejection rates.  

  • Automatically monitor and control processes and procedures to produce quality products with less waste and rework
  • Implement quality checks at the right time
  • Alerts to notify any abnormalities in machinery
  • Reduce expensive mistakes

Engage Employees

Have you positioned skilled labor correctly on the factory floor? Are your employees clear on their objectives and work plans on a shift by shift basis? Are they aware of operational objectives? 

Your frontline workers manning the production line have a significant impact on improving throughput. However, as mentioned previously, lost throughput is often due to people and process inefficiencies. In reality, many factory floor workers lack the necessary access to production information to make smart, data-driven decisions. With smart factory software, granular information into downtime, changeover times, microstoppages, and delays that all negatively impact throughput can be displayed at workstations providing employees with clear insights into bottlenecks.

Visualization of real-time, relevant production data provides the right tools to engage employees to initiate continuous improvement activities to improve throughput. These CI initiatives can be tracked to completion within the system facilitating ownership and accountability. Employees will also be more fulfilled knowing that their ideas and concerns are addressed and have a direct impact on improving the bottom line.

Watch our on-demand webinar to learn more about how to connect people to meaningful data to drive process improvements and digital transformation for your operations!