Expediency Efficiency: Speeding Up Manufacturing And Packaging

July 4, 2018

Small businesses have always fought the uphill battle. It's the unfortunate world of who was here first. A company that was once small in the 1970s, but has now grown to become a multinational in 2018, is what a small business now faces in competition. One day it's going to happen to you too when you become large and you’re the rival of somebody who was once in your position. A contest of practicality and personal triumph comes in the form of do you hire more people to do more, or do you supercharge your current employees to be more productive? One thing is for certain, you cannot outcompete a large business for sheer volume of products and services. Adaptability, innovation and bespoke quality are the weapons of choice you should be veering toward. This is great if you’re an online business because it takes less effort and resources to change something online than it does in real life. So where does that leave all the small manufacturing businesses then? Well, the balance is still in the air, because fewer people need to achieve more to meet demand as your exposure increases. Therefore speed and efficiency are a joint first place for urgent attention required.
Machines are your friends
Without a doubt or argument, the number one reason why large companies can manufacturer in large quantities is that of automation. Sophisticated and complex machines that have been tailor-designed to each company’s specific wishes produce goods with great haste. These machines use lasers to measure in finite detail, be accurate and computer assistance to make sure preset quality control is maintaining standards. They can pick up and move, fit, drill, flip and bend to the correct millimeter over and over. However as you can probably guess, these machines cost a lot of money, not just to buy, but to maintain throughout the year.
Although your small business may not be able to afford such machines, you can still implement machines that make the process of manufacturing a lot smoother. For example, if you have a furniture or metal works business and you use a lot of screws in your products than buying a drill for screws from the public consumption market is a bad idea. These won’t last very long as they’re not designed to be used at the industrial level. Instead, a hydraulic impact drill that is hooked up to pressurized liquid or compressed air is going to get the job done a lot faster. The drill itself will be made of higher-strength materials too. This makes the job of the guy on the floor putting together your products, ready to be sold, so much smoother. Consider where you could implement machines in your factory floors yet remain as not totally automated.
When parts are finished
When work is being commenced, you’re not losing money. Only when production of parts has stopped is the time when during the line of production, do you start to lose money. Think of every second that a part not going through the process, as time that you could have saved. Not only do you, therefore, have more time in the day to get more done, but you also produce more parts. When a part is finished by one worker, it needs to be transferred onto the worker that will then complete the next stage. Small parts can be collected and kept in a basket until a stockpile is built up and then they can be given onto the next stage. However, large parts are more hazardous to move throughout the factory floor. Do you have enough room for employees and the parts to be carried safely? It's not uncommon for the edges of a product such as a sheet of steel to be dented on the sides due to hitting a wall or tool during the transportation phase.
The distance between each station should be considered as to whether or not a better spot could be located. If a worker has to transport their finished part onto the next worker who will also complete their role on the same part, for more than 10 or 15 seconds, you have a time gap problem. It should be a smooth transition. Physically moving the stations closer together could save your minutes per day, hours per week and day per year. Large companies use conveyor belts to transport products from one end of the factory all the way to the other. However, this type of industrial equipment costs a lot and takes up so much space. Instead, you could use pallet trucks and burden carrier vehicles that have lots of loading space in the rear and can be driven by one person. These vehicles are great for carrying supplies, scrap, rubbish, waste, as well as products in transitional phases.
The fiddly chore of packaging
When a product is ready to be shipped to the distributor or customer of any kind, making sure that it's properly taken care of from the factory all the way to its destination is the only priority left. All your hard work can be undone by a simple speed bump in the road. If improperly packaged and kept as rock-steady as possible along all the ebbs and flows of the product’s journey, it will break, malfunction and customers won’t be happy in the least. But, since you create so many items that are different shapes, weights, sizes, and strength, is packaging going to be a chore? It's easy to think that you need specially designed foam pads for each product, fitting snugly. There is such a thing as too much protection. Loose foam is good but doesn’t provide enough protection. Bear in mind you have to plan for every eventuality. You should not have to expect to see your product survive a drop from a tall height in its packaging. Yet you have to plan for that too and give it as supple a landing as you can.
Cushioning, bolstering and seating foam is just what could stabilize a product while in transit. This kind of made-to-order foam is the alternative other structural and positional support options like industrial bubble wrap and molded plastics. If you click here for more, the company allows you to set your own cut out measurements so if you have different kinds of boxes that have been standardized, you can buy in bulk the exact sizes of foam you require. Whether you’re looking for a simple bolster for the top, bottom and sides, or a wedge to keep some products apart so they don’t clash and damage each other, the company has all the kinds of foams for commercial packaging.
Correlate packaging with orders
Carefully putting the packages together once an order has been made is time-consuming enough. So have your sales team work together alongside the depot team. As soon as an order has been filled, inform the team at the factory ground floor that a certain item need is going to be coming down the line. The packaging and delivery team needs to then, make a box, padding, foam, plastic and industrial tape ready. The box should be put aside so you don’t have more orders than you do boxes. The same should go for the internal padding. Essentially what you have is the final stage already complete while the product is actually going through the factory being made, finished, picked or processed.
Sectioning the end zone
Packaging teams have more to worry about than filtering through different boxes, bags and packaging material all day long to find the things they need. Bear in mind that health and safety is to be adhered to all the time on the factory floor. Orders need to be correctly examined and made sure they are going to be dispatched to the right customer, address, company or overseas client. To save time and money, many packages that are going to be delivered in the same region or city are loaded onto delivery trucks together. So in this commotion of trying to be organized and efficient, packaging teams need to make the packing process the quickest.
Standardizing boxes makes sense. Even though you may have a product that only fits 3/4 or 2/3 in the box, the cost is less. It would be entirely unrealistic to buy boxes that are the exact size of each of the products you sell. The customized boxes will cost more to make and thus you pay more than you need to.
Standard boxes for personal, small, medium and large items should be given classifications. For example, an item that is miniature i.e. can fit in your hands easily, should be box type A, and large box type D. Thus each box has its own section, as well as all the packaging that fits into that box, in the section also. This means technically you have four different stations but at the cost of a little more space, you sidestep confusion and disharmony in the end zone of a factory i.e. the last stop before being shipped.
Expediency in business should not have to come at the sacrifice of efficiency. In fact the more efficiency you employ in your manufacturing and packaging, the more time you save altogether. Small businesses don’t usually have the funds to buy automated machines, but you can buy equipment that is hydraulically or pneumatically powered, saving your workers time and physical labor. Packaging done correctly, with the proper padding will be the guardian that serves to protect your product and your business reputation all the way up until it is received by the customer.

Mark Asquith

That British podcast guy, Mark is co-founder of Captivate.fm, the world's only growth-oriented podcast host. A Harvard, TEDx, Podcast Movement and Podfest speaker (amongst many more!), he's a wildly approachable Brit and Star Wars/DC Comics geek.

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