Time management is a crucial skill to master in manufacturing, an industry where most employees are expected to juggle multiple tasks effectively. But a common misconception is that time management is a universal skill that everyone possesses, that can be added to any LinkedIn profile.
In reality, failure to manage time effectively is probably the most common weakness to get in anyone’s way during the work day. It’s a national issue – up to 95 percent of college students currently say that they procrastinate within a given day. In our digital era, we find ourselves exposed to so many more distractions than 20 years ago.
But having the time to complete a task and to do it well is one of the greatest assets to a business. Idle time can be detrimental to manufacturers: not only does it mean that a plant is not working at the optimum level of efficiency, but it harms individual employees by disrupting their focus from the task at hand.
Time management and efficient manufacturing go hand in hand. Here are 5 tips every manufacturer can benefit from:
Standardize floor operations.
The time it takes to complete your operating procedures should not be contingent on the task at hand or which employee is working on any given day. To ensure optimum efficiency and time management on the floor, there should be set levels of time for task completion, as well as what falling short or speeding up could mean for the rest of the production line.
Investing in the latest machinery for your business model falls under the umbrella of standardization, because technology can be digitally programmed to maintain a certain level of output, or to change its rate based on percentage of work being completed.
For human workers, everyone should be aware of time standards while they are working, by either visible timers or charts that show what different lead times mean for production levels. One key to implementing a standardized operation that is beneficial is that it should not just be the general manager’s responsibility, but the employees as well.
Analyze the production line.
Once a business finds a set way of operating that seems to work, one mistake many manufacturers make is never taking the time to examine practices beyond that. The truth is that periodic analysis of a production line benefits time management because it ensures that standards are actually being met in the best way.
This includes evaluation of workers, because as many HR professionals know, it is one thing to hire capable workers but it is another to ensure those workers are maintaining their capability and professionalism once employed. Making evaluation a part of company culture also incentivizes workers to perform to the best of their abilities.
As a business enhances its product line or adds new machinery to its plant, it is very easy for production methods to become increasingly complex without anyone really noticing. Again, analysis is the best way to ensure business methods are as simple and efficient as possible, or to note the changes that need to be made to attain this.
Incentivize your pay system.
This is not to say that your pay system for human employees has to be directly competitive, but a reflection in salary to employees who manage their work day productively and work to minimize idle time is a great way to incentivize workers to manage time efficiently.
The problem with bottlenecking, a common time management issue on production lines, is that while it affects every one, it is not necessarily every one’s fault. Therefore, employee training in manufacturing should not only be focused on the individual, but how groups of workers perform as a unit. Pay bonuses could perhaps reward specific groups for working cohesively and eliminating non-productive time in their specific area on the plant floor.
Since employees are often being moved around, or new hires are being made, paid periodic training is another example of a way cohesion could be promoted between workers, and also to demonstrate that your business is willing to compensate for time management.
Schedule breaks within the day.
One lunch break at noon often is not enough for a worker to refocus their attention and rest from the routine of their work. One benefit to idle time is that it does give workers a chance to take a breath, but on a day where production may be playing catch-up, it is not likely that there will be rest time for workers built into the day.
Furthermore, though idle time is not usually productive, most employees will not fully feel at rest if they are anticipating the delivery of new materials so they can get on with production. Therefore, idle time and break time should still be differentiated in the work day schedule, as idle time usually just entails workers actively waiting to continue their work on the plant floor.
Make sure the culture of your manufacturing company remains centered around the well-being of your workers, even though maximizing productivity is usually the central focus. Your workers’ own productivity will be maximized if they feel well taken care of by the business, knowing that concrete rest periods are built into their day.
Commit to continuous improvement.
As previously mentioned, because manufacturing companies are constantly investing in new technologies, making new hires and modifying their products, there can be no “perfect” level of time management that can be attained. Any manufacturers searching for this level of perfection will find themselves getting frustrated with how they come up short, because standards are constantly changing and processes are getting revamped.
Instead, it is much more practical to focus a certain division of administration or management on the task of time management. These employees should be as present on the floor of the plant as they are analyzing the data on a computer screen. Part of time management is ensuring that set standards are being implemented correctly and effectively in real-time.
Time management is an aspect of manufacturing where there is always room for improvement, and this should be acknowledged universally within any given company, by its owners, by managers, and by workers as well.
How do you optimize time management at your manufacturing company? Tweet us @AppleRubber to continue this conversation.