How to Identify Labor Bottlenecks

6/2/16 3:00 PM

 Major performance improvements result from the identification of bottlenecks that continuously slow down the manufacturing flow. Often these constraints result from a machine that breaks down or misallocated human resources.There may be several bottlenecks affecting throughput due to wait times, waste or the lack of the proper raw materials at a station. However, one of the costliest bottlenecks may be due to labor inefficiencies.

Identify Labor Bottlenecks Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) software can capture and analyze a wealth of data to identify where labor bottlenecks occur. The APS software dashboard presents results clearly so that managers can assess and correct bottleneck situations proactively, rather than well after the fact when costs cannot be recouped. Typical improvements to throughput include capacity conflicts, cross training opportunities, and communications improvements.

Capacity Conflicts

Theoretical capacity does not always mesh with real capacity. For example, a manufacturer may have ten machines able to produce a product, but only five employees skilled enough to operate those machines. Furthermore, some machines require significant physical strength to operate – if the burly operator is out one day, no one is able to effectively step into his place. An APS system loads a wide range of pertinent variables into its database, so that these constraints are acknowledged and built into final schedules.

Overtime considerations can also contribute to bottlenecks. Always having the right mix of labor with the right skills on hand to address the extra hours needed to complete orders is complex. APS systems provide supervisors and managers with real-time information and the tools to adjust schedules when deadlines are looming. Those schedules are realistic and take into account production limitations as well as the labor available at that moment to handle the production.

Cross Training Opportunities

Poorly managed employee skill-sets can result in bottlenecks as well. This is especially important in manufacturing operations where workers are highly skilled. Once management identifies a skill-set weakness, a decision whether or not to train additional workers to bring them up to speed must be made. labor bottlenecks The APS system can assist in these decisions with the ability to run various scenarios (what-ifs) in order to determine how much cross-training is needed to address the bottleneck. It can also assist with who should receive the additional training based on productivity levels, attendance records, etc.

Communications Improvements

Let's address the following manufacturing scenario: the machines are primed, workers are in place, but the correct materials are not in inventory or were not delivered to the job site. Unfortunately, the materials plan was not synchronized with the production schedule. This results in time wasted by line workers as well as supervisors while they sort out the delay. Management and sales teams sometimes waste several hours each day determining if production and delivery schedules are able to meet customer demand. Even worse, workers could spend valuable time away from machines checking with supervisors on what they should do next.

With an APS system, every department in an organization is looking at the same, real-time information in an effort to avoid these problem situations. Management has a realistic overview of the production floor as well as the supply chain; planners can adjust schedules to address reality and oft changing variables; workers can be as productive as possible knowing their current direction and what projects come next.

A manufacturing bottleneck constrains the entire organization and can define the production capacity of a facility. Employing an APS system to optimize labor usage and other potential bottlenecks allows a manufacturing company to optimize its performance and to maximize profit.

Related Lean Manufacturing Video

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Topics: Advanced Planning and Scheduling, Lean Manufacturing, PlanetTogether, Implementation, APS, APS, bottlenecks, bottleneck visibility, ERP System, manufacturing technology, APS benefits

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