The ideal version of a manufacturing operation is a system where labor and materials are efficiently converted into products. Unless things get very out of hand, though, it can be hard to spot when a company's operations are suboptimal.
In the world of manufacturing business operations consulting, professionals look for signs of trouble using a checklist. If you're wondering whether your company might require manufacturing operations consulting help, here are four ways you can quickly investigate potential problems.
Ultimately, the goal of any business is to make money. Accounting is often the simplest way to monitor how inputs become outputs. Consequently, accounting also is frequently the first place that red flags start to appear when a manufacturing operation begins having issues.
If you see a drop in output even though overall inputs are stable, that might be an indication of trouble. This is especially the case if the change represents a multi-year decline.
Bear in mind, these issues might not appear on the sales side of the ledger. If processes can compensate for problems, you might see them appear as costs.
Especially at operations with lots of equipment, mechanical failures may flag issues, too. If you're seeing an uptick in breakdowns, it might be due to more than just old equipment. Poor processes can lead to trouble, too. That's especially the case if an existing process hasn't been updated to account for changes in materials. Similar problems can occur as employee turnover changes the way processes are implemented.
The feedback a manufacturer gets from customers is priceless. Not all customers complain. Many just take their business elsewhere, and that makes it important to embrace the customers who try to bring problems to your attention.
If you don't already have a robust customer service system in place, that's one of the first things a manufacturing operations consulting firm will want to implement. Information from customers can go into a database, and this can make cataloging issues easier. Once you have the data from the customer service side, it might become evident which parts of your operation are experiencing trouble.
The people who are hands-on with your processes are also great sources of information. It's a good idea to survey employees at least once a year. They can often catch issues long before problems become highly visible. This can help you to identify problems with processes, supply chains, ordering, and equipment. You'll also get the benefit of having your employees appreciate you for seeking out and acting on their feedback.