Businesses are always looking for ways to reduce costs and increase profits. Never has this been more true than in today's challenging economy. From finding more affordable suppliers to implementing shop management software solutions, every positive change can contribute to lower costs and more robust profits. One of the most effective ways of streamlining a business is by reducing lead times. A company able to offer shorter turnaround and delivery times while producing a reliable, top quality product will have a competitive edge over others in their industry.
The good news is that it's possible to reduce lead time significantly, in some cases, up to as much as 50%. It also doesn't have to cost a lot or require much effort. The key to effectively reducing lead time is by understanding the current state of your manufacturing process from the time the quote is issued to when you are able to receive payment for it, and every step in between. What steps require the most time and effort? Where do the "snags" consistently happen? The answers to these questions can provide valuable insights into how to streamline your manufacturing process.
Do you have any idea how much actual labor goes toward your lead time? Are there instances of waste that could be made more efficient? Here are 5 steps that can help you to dramatically reduce your lead time, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and more profits for your business:
1. Map Out Your Current Job Flow Performance
It can be helpful to start by creating a diagram or flow chart of your manufacturing process from beginning to end as it stands right now. Estimate the amount of time and money to implement each step. Use a whiteboard and get as detailed and specific as possible. Break things down day by day, hour by hour, even minute by minute put into all of the activities and expenditures involved. Examine the creation and delivery of your product or service from start to finish. Having a clear, visual, visceral representation of your manufacturing process and all that each step entails can be a powerful first step toward removing inefficiencies, fine-tuning your workflow and putting more cash into your bank account more quickly.
2. Reduce Costs, Waste and Mistakes
Having identified the overall actual turnaround time for your products and process, it's time to examine it for inefficiencies. Start eliminating all of the activities that do not add value to your product for your customers. Some of the areas where cuts are often practical are steps when things are counted, moved, inspected, searched for, stored, filed, waited for, or processed when they are not needed. Many of these steps can be reduced or eliminated, and this can have a dramatic impact on reducing cost and hours of labor as well your turnaround time. Consider manufacturing smaller batch sizes and finding ways to reduce costly errors and mistakes throughout your manufacturing process.
3. Adjust for Average Customer Demand
In some instances businesses are made up of functional groups whose tasks and resources do not accurately reflect the specific demands of their customers. Part of reducing turnaround requires that work flows through all processes at a rate in sync with customer needs. Too fast or too slow results in a mismatch and can affect ideal productivity levels. Having a customer-focused process flow rather than disconnected functional silos helps to reduce turnaround time. You'll eliminate wasteful "hand over" and bottlenecks between departments and job phases.
4. Consider Job Shop Management Software
Another way to optimize lead time is through the use of job shop software. Job shop management software solutions can go a long way in streamlining the manufacturing process and order flow. With manufacturing shop management software, many crucial steps are automated. Employees are then freed up to focus more on improving high-value business procedures and processes instead of being mired in tedious daily tasks.
5. Create a New Turnaround Time Goal
If you are really serious about improving your lead time, workflow, productivity and customer satisfaction, then create a new turnaround goal that reflects what you've learned about your manufacturing business and where you'd like to be. Specific written or spoken goals are far more likely to be achieved than vague, non-specific ones. Now that you have a clear picture about what your business has been doing and how it can be improved, choose a new result that you'd like to meet, alert key staff members and focus on making your goal a reality.
Improving lead time need not be an intimidating task. Often, a number of small adjustments can pay off in very big ways. Awareness is key, and starting with an honest look at your current workflow is the first step. From there, reducing waste, syncing up with customer needs and implementing quality workflow management software will all contribute to meeting your lead time goals.