November 12, 2020

Technical Tips for More Effective Plant Floor Time Management

by Joe Erb

There have been plenty of lessons to learn as our industry navigates the challenges brought to us throughout 2020. We’ve had to fundamentally rethink our commitments to plant safety amidst the pandemic, and with markets rebounding in the second half of the year, we’ve needed to do so while ensuring quality, timely production. Meanwhile, the pandemic has amplified the severity of the labor shortage, leaving manufacturers to do more with less throughout the year.

This got me thinking about strategies that any manufacturer can apply for more efficient shop floor time management. I asked Quanex’s Director of Technical Services John Ryba to share some of their most effective tips—here’s what he had to say:

Optimize your line layout. “The most efficient fenestration manufacturing line follows as straight a line as possible from start to finish, enabling the easy transfer of materials from one point to the next,” says Ryba. “It might not seem like much, but if, for instance, you’re following a strange path in carting glass to the insulating station, you’re wasting time. It adds up and can drag down your rate of production significantly.”

A comprehensive evaluation of your own operations can be invaluable for finding production line improvements that might be possible. Turnover, new equipment, a new product line—and yes, COVID-19 protocols—may have inadvertently complicated your processes without anyone realizing the true impact, Ryba says. Taking a more critical eye to your production might not mean fundamental changes might be made, but you might discover small changes that can make a big impact.

Stay organized. “Good organization is one of the biggest difference makers in efficient production,” Ryba said. But that’s not always easy, especially with new safety protocols that may have disrupted normal operation.

In this case, it can be important to remember the principles of continuous improvement, lean, 5S, and other manufacturing methodologies. “A place for everything and everything in its place,” said Ryba. “Whether it’s vinyl extrusion, glass, desiccant, spacers, or any other component, everything should be clearly marked and organized by material type. Then, when you need them, all components will be easy to access and move into your production line. Having scattered, unorganized storage of your components and raw materials takes up more room and requires more work to find and move around—and that costs you money.”

Consider outsourcing certain components. It’s more important than ever right now to allocate quality employees to the highest value tasks on your plant floor. Outsourcing certain low-value components of your operation can help you do that, Ryba says.

“If you’re making residential windows, screens are a necessary part of the finished product,” he said. “Not only does screens processing eat up labor, but it can take up valuable floor space that manufacturers can use for something that contributes greater value to the end users. Outsourcing screens with a trusted supplier to help ensure high quality and consistency can be highly effective.”
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Posted: November 12, 2020 by Joe Erb Filed under: plant efficiency, plant safety, plant transformation