In manufacturing, the success of your operations and ability to meet customer expectations rely heavily on the productivity of your workforce. Crews need to work their shifts and efficiently produce goods without obstacles to slow them down and reduce output.
Increasing productivity doesn’t necessarily require months of time-and-motion studies or expensive consultants. Instead, by taking practical steps to improve internal processes and address the needs of your workers, you can increase productivity and keep your manufacturing operations running smoothly.
The Value of Productivity in Manufacturing
Manufacturing is one of the few industries in which you can calculate productivity in a relatively straightforward manner. Total outputs (i.e., number of goods or units produced) divided by total inputs (i.e., employee hours) equals productivity. The higher your employee productivity, the more successful you’ll be in meeting other goals, such as lowering labor costs or achieving profitability.
High productivity in your manufacturing organization will allow you to:
- Compete effectively with organizations that produce similar goods.
- Keep up with consumer product demand.
- Avoid reductions in force.
In just about any manufacturing organization, productivity measures are required to maintain or increase current levels of efficiency. Below, we outline some great ways to increase productivity in your organization.
5 Practical Ways to Boost Workforce Productivity in Manufacturing
1. Train employees and offer opportunities to build their skills.
Just as machines need scheduled maintenance to operate effectively, workers need ways to build new skills and sharpen existing ones. After all, the manufacturing skills gap is widening, and it will become even harder to find and retain skilled manufacturing workers in the future. According to Deloitte research, manufacturers believe finding the right talent is now 36 percent harder than it was just three years ago, and the skills gap is likely to result in as many as 2.1 million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2030.
To help your workers develop skills that will be valuable both now and in the future, it’s essential to offer training and opportunities for growth. For example, you may want to train workers to use new equipment so they are proficient in multiple areas of production. Other areas in which you can offer training and development include:
- Workplace safety
- Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI)
- Soft skills, such as communication and stress tolerance
2. Streamline processes and implement automation technology.
Any time you improve manufacturing efficiency, you will see a direct impact on productivity. For example, you can boost productivity by reorganizing the shop floor layout to reduce wait times between various stages of production. You can also introduce lean manufacturing principles, empowering workers to identify and eliminate waste and inefficiencies in their immediate work areas.
Another way to streamline existing processes is through automation technology. By swapping out your outdated time clock for a digital solution—such as a mobile clock app or touchless badge reader—you allow workers to clock in and out without having to wait in a long line at the time clock during shift changes.
3. Use tools to understand worker productivity and labor costs.
Because labor costs are a key driver of productivity in manufacturing, it’s essential to have tools that help you understand the costs associated with each segment of the production process. For example, if you can understand the labor costs associated with assembly versus packaging, then it will be much easier to examine productivity levels by worker, crew and job activity rather than across the entire facility.
A labor tracking and job costing solution can tie worker time to specific tasks and offer greater visibility into the costs required for different activities. You can also run reports to see which workers are most productive at specific tasks, so you can fine-tune worker schedules and assignments for maximum efficiency.
4. Establish routine, two-way communication.
Unlike other professions, manufacturing workers don’t spend the bulk of their days in meetings. However, plentiful communication can go a long way in supporting their productivity.
For example, when adjustments in the supply chain change production processes, workers need full information and support in learning these new processes. They also need outlets for giving feedback and asking questions. By hearing your workers’ concerns and experiences, you can demonstrate an understanding of their challenges and provide the resources they need to clear obstacles to productivity.
5. Create opportunities for rewards and recognition.
Besides hourly pay, there are additional ways to reward and incentivize productivity in your workforce. Both cash and non-cash rewards can be effective in recognizing good work and keeping workers engaged. Sometimes, a simple “thank you” or “great job today” can go a long way in making workers feel appreciated and willing to do their best. In an Achievers survey, 92 percent of workers said that if they are recognized for performing a specific action, then they’re more likely to take that action again in the future.
Rewards and recognition can take many forms, with each potentially boosting productivity in your workforce. A 2020 study conducted by the Incentive Research Foundation found that top-performing manufacturing companies—meaning those with the highest rates of employee satisfaction and financial growth—were likely to have more effective incentive programs than their peers. Some of the rewards you can use to encourage worker productivity include:
- Priority for popular shifts for a month.
- Participation in a profit-sharing program.
- Reward points, which can be used to purchase items such as gift cards or event tickets.
The Benefits of Higher Workforce Productivity
As a manufacturer in today’s ever-changing business environment, the productivity of your workforce can mean the difference between profitability and just getting by. By implementing some of these practical ideas, you can reap the benefits of more efficient workflows and a higher-performing workforce.